Archipielago (Archipelago)

Institute History

  • 1990 January Screenwriters Lab


An architect, a communist around sixty years old, must assume clandestine activities in a political organization soon after the coup d'etat in Chile. While attending a meeting with a group of young activists in an apartment house for working people which he has planned and built, he is caught in a razzia by the political police. Violence is the rule of thumb: one of the young men is thrown from the fourth floor window. Everyone is lavishly beaten, and the architect, obviously the head of the group, is shot, point┬Čblank, in his forehead. The story is the craze of the architect between the moment he is shot and his death. This is not evident until the end of the story, however.

Irrational hope unshackles fantasy: "What if they had let me go as a decoy, for instance? I would have traveled to places where they don't know me, to the remote archipelago of Chiloe, down south, but even there, the clandestine militants would know about me and I should avoid them . . . "

But death is coming closer, and the self-referring fancy of the architect leads him into metaphysical, increasingly fundamental regions: "They would hire me to restore some old missionary chapel in the archipelago . . . because the Catholic Church can understand that a socialist architect is motivated by spirit and devotion, as a religious architect would be. . . . The Japanese would finance the project, those imperialistic predators on duty, allied to the most reactionary forces, which led to Christianization and subsequent extermination of the Indians . . . "

In terms of his own fancy, restoring and building may be switched in time. The architect can see himself as the architect-missionary who built the small church during the 18th century: "I found the Chono Indians, primitive nomads and sailors, to civilize them and to make them sedentary. Their natural environment is quite violent and intolerable, besides, they insulted me by their shamelessness and their rusticity. They rejected me but took care of my life. I could finally save them . . from the soldiers of the Crown, my fellow men, who shot them. But I couldn't spare them from extinction due to cultural reasons because they didn't want to go on living like Europeans."

The hidden protagonist in the architect's fancy is death. Death of the Chono Indians and their innocence, death of the militant boys and his own death. The architect assumes his own responsibility while progressing towards death: "God, you have used me, why have I been the instrument to expel the Chonos from Paradise (from innocence)? The same claim is valid today, and the apartment-house for working people, functional, socialistic, ugly and decayed, is at the same time the architect's church and the grave of the revolutionary boys.

Under the wooden floor of the church, in the archipelago of his fancy, the architect finds a macabre tomb: a series of triangular coffins arranged like the sections of an orange, containing half-mummified corpses which have been buried there by the missionary. The victim finds out his own crime, the crime he has committed.
The architect's death, or the moment before he dies, occurs in the middle ground of his craze: while sailing across the archipelago, he is kidnapped by a gang of mythical Indian pirates who used to kill their victims after making them drunk.


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