Arsiete C.A.
 
 

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Alexander Von Humboldt is Prussian, noble and rich, Aimé Bonpland is French and of modest descent. When they first meet in Paris, Humboldt is 29 years old, Bonpland 25. The first has just refused the post of General Director of the Silesian Mines, and searches desperately an occasion to wander around the world in order to carry out his passion for geography, geology, botany and the human sciences. Bonpland, navy medical doctor, divides his time between the study of plants – his passion – and the Museum of Natural Science in Paris where he is a student of Jussieu, the great biology professor, while he waits for a hypothetical participation in a scientific campaign: either the one headed by Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt or the one headed by Nicolas Baudin, who plans to travel around the world. Alexandre is homosexual, Bonpland an incorrigible lover of women…

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Strange and complex labyrinth of similitude and differences, although they both have three essential common traits of character which will be the cathalyzers of an unending friendship. One, as well as the other, are animated by democratic ideals of total humane generosity. Both are avid of all knowledge, and offer Humanity the result of all their findings. They are beyond all else, young, thus capable to be marveled and audacious beyond consciousness.

For four years, they tread through Spanish America, utilizing all their encyclopedic resources to make a methodical description - like no one before – of all they see. They travel, on foot, horse and river for more than fifteen thousand kilometers, charged with scientific instruments, drawing maps, noting observations on nature and the inhabitants of these far away places, thus establishing the first perimeters about the geological formation of the Continent and starting its first demographic description.

They are, beyond other things, the founders - through their description of the natives - of South American anthropology and ethnology and the pioneers of the arqueological studies of the Continent. They also describe their vision of the Spanish Colonial society, with its interior power struggles and its methods of exploitation. Their work announces what will be the Latin America of the 19th century after the victory of the liberators, with its lack of stability and civil wars…

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NOTE OF INTENTION

In writing “AIRE LIBRE” we deliberately chose not to write an exhaustive saga, a filmed biography, a historical reconstruction or epic voyage. We shall live in the company of Humboldt, Bonpland and Juan - a teacher and their Venezuelan guide - a relatively short span of their trip through the Americas, a privileged moment in the lives of both naturalists. The film deals with the experiences lived during the first part of their trip to tropical America. But our preoccupation is not to “describe” their trip as the principal action, and much less as the subject of the film or as a curiosity, as tourism or or exotism.

Plains, jungle or small colonial village will essentially be a backdrop - in the theatrical sense - (as the photographic backdrops used by the photographers of Latin American plazas) of a truly “behind closed doors, out in the open”…. The events themselves, the encounters, the relationship with the places they visit, the shared dangers and pleasures will constitute the trigger of a collective catharsis that forces them to “open up” and affirm themselves, appreciate each other, at least, accept their differences.

The two naturalists are extremely strong characters, armed with colossal and modern insights and certitudes: hate of slavery, lack of confidence on colonization processes, rejection of the supernatural, faith in Humanity, in Truth and Beauty, in the Universality of Knowledge…They are the witnesses of the authentic pragmatic spirit, direct heir of the “Century of Lights” (the major part of the film happens between 1799 and 1800).

The third member of the trio is no less important. Juan Montañer represents the new “Homo Americanus”, that new man that Humboldt y Bonpland dream of being themselves...: “An euphoria preceded the coming of the new man and we let ourselves be swept away by the current of the new discoveries we made everyday. All this happened a bit before the great (political) movements that lead to the end of the Spanish Empire.“ writes Bonpland in his diary. If the profound reasons for the immense curiosity of the Venezuelan are not exactly the same as the two scientists, Juan is going to teach them much instincts and common sense. Juan, will serve as a mirror and revel the complexities and contradictions of “Civilization”, that Civilization, which brought from the other side of the ocean the slave traders, that both Europeans condemn and the missionaries that the three hold in doubt.

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The heroes of “AIRE LIBRE” are going to live a brief instant - at their best moments - of their most brilliant and exalting youth. Those moments lived together filled with happiness, warm camaraderie and complicity. Days before being informed of of Bonpland` s death, Alexandre conferred to Ave-Lallement a letter in which he tried (for the last time) to make his old friend come back to Europe. They had not seen each other for more than forty years, Bonpland having stayed in South America:
 
“We survived, but unfortunately the immensity of the sea separates us. We should have never been apart: You would have - I’m sure - the same pleasure as I evoking Cumana, el Cogollar, our difficulties and our pleasures during out rip on the Orinoco IT WAS THE MOMENT (youth) TO BE UNHAPPY..” (Can youth, at the same time be "explained" in a more brilliant and bitter way ?) We loved the great emotions; now the drama has passed, memory has cooled, and we are forgetting… Do you remember Turbaco, the spring, that fragile orquid that we compared to a rain of gold? (...) A place opens is offered to me at the Institute, but I will not be the one to criticize you for preferring your happy loneliness, and the affection that surrounds you, to modern Europe. Nonetheless, I would like intensely to read again your handwriting before my approaching death.” He never was able to glance at Bonpland´s answer since the latter died before he could answer Humboldt´s letter.

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“AIRE LIBRE” proposes to show this “BEST MOMENT” when two young men magnificently open to life, filled with bubbling happiness and insatiable thirst of knowledge, are so “UNHAPPY” that they will spend sixty years in NOT FORGETTING their adventure…

                                                          Secuencia de amor Ana y Aimé - Aire libre

For contact information: arsiete@gmail.com