A haunting allegory of a lonely and divided society.
A. J. Cox | London, SW8 | 06/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'La Sombra del Caminante' (The Wandering Shadows) is a remarkable piece of cinema. This film is set around the wide streets and narrow barrios of the Colombian capital, Bogota. Mane (Cesar Badillo) has no work, a wooden leg and is subject to the cruelty of his landlady's brother, a former army sergeant, who scorns and berates him for his disability and his wretched poverty; and the barrio thugs who regularly taunt him and beat him up.
In spite of his harsh treatment, Mane is determined to keep his dignity. He begins to recover his dignity when, after being badly beaten up by the barrio thugs, he is aided by an enigmatic stranger, who makes a living by carrying people around the city on a chair strapped to his back. The good samaritan gesture by the chair man (silletero) begins a unique friendship between the two. The silletero, who wears dark goggles concealing his eyes, will not tell Mane his name, nor disclose anything about his past, despite Mane's attempts at befriending him.
Piece by piece the silletero learns small details of Mane's life and this begins the process of opening up the terrible secret that links these two men to their respective fates on the streets of Bogota. The silletero depends greatly on drinking tea made from an unusual plant from the Colombian jungle. This plant turns out to be the Holy Grail of the film's narrative, and we finally discover that the silletero carries a much greater weight on his shoulders than worn out Bogotanos.
This is an important film that rewards the patient viewer. It is a tale of human beings struggling to maintain their dignity in the most wretched of circumstances. This is a film that explores the terrible predicament of those affected by war, poverty, crime and displacement in Colombia, but its message is hauntingly universal."