La montagne magique
A camera takes us deep underground where Bolivian miners toil in primitive conditions. A time-machine film that takes us through the pitch black to a primeval altar and simultaneously confronts us with the tourist industry’s voyeurism.
The mountain referred to in the title, Cerro Rico near the Bolivian town of Potosi, is so hollowed out by centuries of mining that it threatens to collapse. Many interesting details could be discussed, but Schtakleff does something entirely different. He provides viewers with a commentary-free glimpse of the underground operations. In the scant light of a lantern he wanders the roughly hewn tunnels, with here and there miners at their toilsome task. A group of tourists provide a bizarre contrast.
The filmmaker enables us to experience this unglamourised, claustrophobic reality in a sober style with long shots and almost no dialogue. The patient rock breaking, the dust, the loudly rattling trucks, the panting. Immersion in a secret world in which miners make sacrifices to their own potent god, while the break-time conversations about above-ground pleasures and dramas feel somewhat surreal.