Vida comienza, vida termina (Life Begins, Life Ends). 2021. Switzerland/Argentina/USA. Directed by Rafael Palacio Illingworth. Screenplay by Palacio Illingworth. With Eleonore Meier, Cristian Salguero, Mariana Anghileri. North American premiere. In English, Spanish, German, Swiss-German; English subtitles. 83 min.
Personal tragedy befell Rafael Palacio Illingworth while he was midway through a screenplay about gauchos holding out against change in the Argentine pampa. Relocated to Zurich, he began filming his wife’s cancer treatments and recording life with their young daughters, hanging on to every last moment. The two stories converge in this wholly unexpected mix of autobiography and delirious fiction, in which temporal layers and doppelganger families open up a space to process disorienting grief. Life Begins, Life Ends unfurls as a stream of consciousness that exalts life’s fragility, and its preciousness. Punctuated by the line drawings of Roberto Bolaño and shades of magical realism, Palacio Illingworth’s film is as original a work of art as any that stares down our own mortality.