In 1995, Peter Jackson and Costa Botes released a meticulous (and false) documentary, Forgotten Silver, celebrating the pioneering achievements of a mysterious New Zealand filmmaker, Colin McKenzie. According to the evidence presented, he was the inventor of the tracking shot, close-up and other innovations. It was, of course, an elaborate prank – McKenzie never existed; film jokes aside, however, the movie demonstrated it was possible – perhaps even necessary – to explore the shadowy areas of consolidated film history in order to provide alternative interpretations of a series of dogmas (of faith) passed down over the years. Film histories attribute the first tracking shot to Aragonese cinematographer Segundo de Chomón while he was working on the set of Giovanni Pastrone’s Cabiria (1914). In 1909, Chomón adapted H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man in the short film Le Voleur invisible (1909), and he too would be condemned to invisibility, unjustly limited to his nickname as the ‘Spanish Méliès’. A circumstance that this eccentric film by Ramón Alós disputes by blurring the distinction between fiction and reality, and the subsequent creation and destruction of a legend.
Mixing dramatic reconstructions, animation, pieces of the filmmaker’s work and expert testimony, the film revolves around the ghostly figure of Chomón’s twin brother: a game of mirrors intended to make up for what memory has lost and at the same time present an interesting mystery, in which the ventriloquist Francisco Sanz Baldoví plays an important part. Even though the film is not always harmonious, Alós offers us a stimulating interpretation of Chomón as the tormented architect of his legend’s demise and emblem of the transition from artisanal poetics to the industry of enchantment.
Jordi Costa, La mitad oscura, “El País”, May 26, 2016