This 1993 documentary by Spanish filmmaker Víctor Erice (The Spirit of the Beehive) is a beguiling film focusing on the actual creation of a work of art by the country's leading painter, Antonio López Garcia. All of the artist's attention is directed to a quince tree in the backyard of his Madrid residence. From the moment the camera catches him at work in the studio making a frame and then in the garden where he plants stakes in the ground to keep his feet in place, we know that we are in the presence of a patient and meticulous painter who knows exactly what he's doing. And yet, as the film proceeds we see López's plans to capture the tree, the fruit, and the light stymied by clouds, bad weather, and rain. The creative process is not an easy or a predictable path.
Meanwhile Erice shows us life going on around López the Polish laborers who are renovating the apartment building, a fellow painter who stops by to reminisce about art school days, the trains that run by López's place in the night, radio reports of the Gulf War and terrorism in Madrid, and the painter's wife using him as a model in a work of her own.
Everyone who looks at López's painting is mystified by his lines on the fruit and the tree his own stab in the dark at blending order and symmetry. He tells some visitors from overseas: "the best part is being close to the tree." In the end, López and Erice give us a beautiful glimpse of the mysteries of art, the transitoriness of life, and the cycles of life and death in nature. Dream of Light is a remarkable film about the creative process.
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