The opening of The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future, in which the camera drifts outward from a decomposing rat as intense sounds of nature inhibit the soundscape, gives you a strong sense of the film's upcoming direction. These recurring shots of the surrounding natural world serve as a constant reminder of both the potential collapse of ecosystems but also the hope that they can be saved from such devastation. The moral allegories of The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future don't fully form, but the film remains a thought-provoking and haunting experience that ambiguously blends the worlds of humans, animals, nature, and the deceased.
When thousands of fish die from pollution in a Chilean river, a long-deceased woman called Magdalena rises from the surface. Her reincarnation, understandably, sends her widowed husband into shock, with Magdalena's children and grandchildren returning to their hometown upon hearing the news. In a wordless performance, Mía Maestro imbues a haunting intrigue to Magdalena, as her character's affinity to nature and clashes with technology become increasingly blatant. In her feature film directorial debut, Francisca Alegría shows a similar connection to and empathy with nature, an admirable quality which infuses directly into her film. She makes us as humans feel small within the world, placing equal value on each organism, from frogs to cows.
The initially evocative intrigue of The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is ultimately overshadowed by themes that feel underdeveloped; they neither connect with one another nor fully form independently. The almost aimless plotting of events contributes to scenes that either lack in resonance or fade away into relative obscurity. This largely directionless dreamscape of Alegría's film contributes to the juxtaposition between its magnetic mysticism and infuriating sporadicity.
Despite this indefinite form, The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is a largely captivating experience. Alegría shoots modern, man-made objects such as cars through trees, situating these alien devices directly within nature. Meanwhile, the buzz of insects or bird song always seems to be competing against the whir of machines. These inventive moments make the looseness of The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future that much more frustrating, but its general allure never vanishes – and it's an intrigue that translates directly into what Alegría's future directorial career will look like.
The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future releases on 24th March in UK cinemas.