The description given in the Ann Arbor Film Festival directory for the experimental Spanish film “RONCO RUMOR REMOTO / ROUGH REMOTE RUMBLE” is not very descriptive. It reads: “A stone falls from a wall, rolls down to the ground, and suddenly stops. At that moment, a cloud with a very similar shape passes over.” There is no more. There won’t be any more. There is nothing more to say, at least from the filmmakers.
The 74-minute, dialogue-less feature does more by saying nothing at all; it is a film that finds curiosity in fairly mundane actions, without relying on any pomp or circumstance to create situations that seem truly at odds with normal expectations of everyday life. “RONCO” follows a man’s quest to recreate the shape of a rock he found in an old ruinous house out of the remnants of a larger ruinous village. It seems to deal thematically with the presence of patterns in nature, displaying on-screen the beauty that comes in tandem with a mathematically created universe. Not unlike how a cluster of neurons in the brain may resemble a cluster of galaxies across the universe, the fundamental pieces of this film are fractals — smaller, secular buds of some common stem.
And it really is quite a beautiful film, however trudging, slow, boring, uneventful and quiet it may seem. The black-and-white cinematography collapses the expansive dessert landscape down upon itself, changing the perception of scale and depth within the shots. Because much of the landscape is indistinguishable, it becomes difficult to tell what is being shown on screen; the long dark striations start to look less like the ridges carved in a glacial valley, and more like shadows formed by a small pile of dirt. The camera work is excellent, probably the most individually impressive piece of the film.
There’s not much to say about performances. The three characters portrayed on the screen never share a word, they hardly even interact. The largest moment of expression between any two of them comes at the end, when the protagonist and his companion share a moment of great raucous laughter after pushing a boulder down the side of a small mountain. Their laughter brings them to tears, and as the moment begins to fade to memory, so does the screen to black.