Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Ennui of an upwardly mobile woman - "Era uma vez eu, Verônica" [2012 Brazil]

Marcelo Gomes is another talented writer-director from the north of Brazil, and while I'm still discovering his filmography, his latest film, "Era uma vez eu, Verônica" [Eng. Title: Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica] showcases his credentials as a serious film maker in no uncertain manner. As the title suggests, his latest film is about a crisis of identity of the protagonist.

Essentially a series of intimate portraits of the protagonist - the film delves into the mind of a recently graduated and upwardly mobile young woman who'd just taken up job as a psychiatrist at a government hospital. For a daughter of a retired bank-employee, she has certainly moved up a notch in the social order. But while people in her shoes would be looking forward to a successful and promising future, Veronica (Hermila Guedes) is indifferent, even a touch disappointed at her achievements, whether with her career or her relationships. Even while remaining socially active, the only person she could relate to or even care about is her ailing father (W.J. Solha). A hopeless romantic, Veronica spurns offers of a deeper relationship from would-be suitors, preferring non-committal sexual encounters instead. Instead of trying to tell what becomes of Veronica, the film however examines her actions, without passing any judgements.

It is irrelevant whether or not Veronica 'discovers' herself in the end, or succeeds in her endeavours; it is the journey that matters, and Gomes establishes her existential crisis quite succinctly here. We could feel it in her indifference to Gustavo's (João Miguel) assertions of love, her empathy towards patients, as if to share with them her own anxieties, and not least in her own words as spoken to a tape recorder. She even feigns a relationship with Gustavo in order to please her ailing father, but who also knows her daughter only too well. "I, Veronica, the patient... uncertain about life, like everybody else", we hear her speaking to her audio diary.

A notable aspect of the film is its sumptuous cinematography - the early scenes of Veronica commuting through the city must have been inspired by Antonioni's existential masterpiece Il deserto rosso, with its imaginative use of architecture and abstract compositions. The rule books are thrown out the window, and we get to see and feel from the protagonist's viewpoint - the touch, the fleeting warmth, the coldness, the alienation and the internal angst. The film is also aided by its beautiful soundtrack and convincing performances by Ms. Guedes and Mr. Solha who play the daughter-father duo. With this film, Mr. Gomes has certainly whetted my appetite to explore his filmography, and if his earlier films turn out to be anything like this, we should be in for a treat. Needless to say, this meditative piece of cinema is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link

The Nudity: Hermila Guedes, João Miguel, and others
The film is bookended with hedonistic scenes at a beach with various young men and women frolicking in gay abandon alongside Veronica and Gustavo in the nude. There are also additional inserts of scenes of a sexual nature intermittently throughout the film, and includes public nudity.

Hermila Guedes, João Miguel, and others nude in Era Uma Vez Eu, Verônica


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