3 November 2013

Motorcycle Diaries

It’s a music tune that made me discover it. It’s funny that the title of that tune means “opening” in Spanish, because it was indeed the start of a discovery that led me to investigate more about the song’s author. One thing leading to another, I went on to watch the movie for which the music was from – and that movie not only reminded me of my own experiences but made me want to give it all up and travel freely, free of every responsibility.

Street life in Cusco, Peru

Apertura: it starts with repetitive notes of an electric guitar (I think) before a classic guitar steps in, mixing very well, creating a powerful retro-modern blend. The rhythm and melody quickly become reminiscent of Latin American music (and for good reason as I’ll explain), with faint flute sounds in the background. It’s when the bass guitar and the drum start playing, after about forty-five seconds, that one starts feeling something between suspense and excitement, something that starts to build up in oneself only waiting to be unleashed. But this liberation will act by surprise: the tempo appears to slow down for a moment, before the violin kicks in, releasing a gush of positivity that moves me, that somehow re-energises me. You may want to listen to it now that I have teased you about it – trust me you’ll want to play it several times, it’s addictive:

Sebastian in Pasuruan, Indonesia

Gustavo Santaolalla is the musician behind Apertura. It turns out he also created the soundtrack of Babel, a very moving (and very good) film from 2006 by Iñárritu with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. But Apertura comes from another movie, The Motorcycle Diaries, that I had not heard about, depicting the journey of 23-year old Ernesto Guevara across South America. Guevara? Yes, the same one who will become known as the Che a few years later (as an aside, “che” is an Argentinian interjection loosely corresponding to “bro” or “mate” in English – he was apparently known to often use that interjection, and that’s how he got his nickname). The film is based on Guevara’s own diaries and is actually very good: he gradually discovers, by traveling across multiple South American countries, the life of simple people, the plight of exploited workers and the partially-renegade lepered – all of which must have shaped Guevara’s thinking. I believe the following quote illustrates well what the Che must have realised back then: “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” (the quote is credited to Marcel Proust but I did my little investigation and couldn’t find it in any of his works).

Alpacas in Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

The travel aspect of the film wasn’t lost on me, evidently. His misfortune with a dying motorbike wasn’t without reminding of the manual-gear motorcycles I rented from random people in Indonesia (see this story or that one). And of course his arrival in Cusco and visit of Machu Picchu transported me back in time, just over a year ago in fact, when I was myself in those very spots.

Apertura is echoed by another similar melody later in the film, that one being called La Partida (the departure) finishing to convince anyone that traveling is truly exhilarating. Who knows where music and travels will in fact lead me next…