“In Terra que marca, Raul Domingues discerns the mutual transformation between human and landscape: territory is domesticated in exchange for the deterioration of the human body.”
It is told that two wrongdoers came to serve their sentence of taking care of this land.
One of them stayed with the land at the east of the stream, while the other would have stayed with the lands to the west.
In the Bible, Man faced Earth once expelled from the Garden of Eden. Thrown into a harsher reality, everyday life became a matter of survival. Society took form at the same pace we developed an understanding of the use of the land, and the way we structure possession of territory. As an analogue, it may seem that today agriculture is the basis of contemporary civilization: in order to reach the technological sophistication that marks our everyday life we first had to learn how to use a shovel and to tube water.
Terra que marca is an observation of traditional agriculture in the rural areas of contemporary Portugal. Despite the lack of any forthright device that obliges us to focus on the temporality of the work – it could well be decades-old footage – it is hard not to place what we see in contrast with how we live in the digital era. It is no coincidence that the film is led by elder men and women: the craft of small-scale agriculture has been challenged by the generation gap and replacement by technology. In Terra que marca, Raul Domingues discerns the mutual transformation between human and landscape: territory is domesticated in exchange for the deterioration of the human body.
As the film reflects on the corporality of the farmers, landscape is regarded as an organism itself, in constant alteration: a tree is cut, another one transplanted, a stream is tubed, herb is trimmed. Domingues has no need to obviate the contrast between this reality and high-scale agriculture in order to build a stance: there seems to be a balance between usage and integrity of land. The work escapes from morals and exoticization – both commonplaces of the ethnographic subgenre – and assembles an if-ever-too-calm contemplation of farmers and their journey… only once hit by sunstroke, perhaps the climax of the film.
Man has fallen, paradise was lost. But what is Eden, if not a place where you can walk on a surface covered with corn grains and bite an orange?