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Lindsay R. Bellinger


 

Lindsay is a film journalist and an aspiring playwright currently based in Berlin.

Attending film festivals, reviewing films and collecting vinyl keeps her busy. Let her know what you think of her reviews.^^


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The Boat (O Barco) review - European premiere of Petrus Cariry's lyrical film

Still from "The Boat"

(Photo courtesy of Filmfest Oldenburg)

By LINDSAY R. BELLINGER

 

"Almost nothing comes through the sea and almost nothing leaves." These lines begin Petrus Cariry's exquisite film "The Boat" (O Barco). Set in a far-flung fishing community in Brazil, the ferocious waves speak before any images even grace the screen. So begins this curious fable. Ana (Samya De Lavor), a mysterious woman washes ashore shortly before a boat follows suit. This small fishing village, isolated from the outside world, is surrounded by tremendous cliffs and the roar of the sea. Son A (Rômulo Braga) is the oldest of 26 siblings all of whom are named after letters of the alphabet. Their mother Esmerina (Veronica Cavalcanti) seems content to continue life as it is although she doesn't really seem that fulfilled. Their father has choosen not to speak for some time now. Son A wants more fish and desires to go deeper into the sea to find them. An elderly blind man (Everaldo Pontes) encourages Son A and to visit the mysterious woman up on the cliff. Ana entertains men with her enthralling stories. He is somewhat late to the game as many of the men in the community have been visiting her storytelling sessions for some time.   
 
"The Boat" is a peculiar film, quite poetic and introspective with a bit of mythology thrown in the mix. It's unique in its execution, filled with quiet and still moments. The images often speak for themselves. The narration of Son A and the wise blind man explain a little but not too much. Yet it calls to mind other films. The sensuous nightly stories that Ana tells brings to mind Park Chan-wook's "The Handmaiden" although less overtly sexual. Kudos to Cariry and his co-writers Rosemberg Cariry and Firmino Holanda for not taking the easy way out, as they could have made it more raunchy. Instead, the audience is left with a veil of mystery and intrigue. Ana's gorgeous body is in fact on display but only where it feels necessary to the aesthetics of the story. Ana is in control. She is worldly and experienced, bringing her worldliness to this closed-off community. Son A questions the simple life after his encounters with Ana. Before it seems as if he knew little beyond the fierce waves, sandy dunes and rocky landscapes. Besides the young children, Esmerina and Ana appear to be the only women living there. Esmerina is representing the old way of life and Ana the possibility of something new. The routine of every day life, just fishing each day to feed the family, no more or no less, was okay for this community's existence. Then Son A's interest and curiosity was piqued by the stranger's arrival. In some way, it is like an anti-"The Beach" film (from director Danny Boyle) in that Son A wants to explore what's out in the sea, rather than remain in the secluded and picturesque beach setting. 
 
The lyrical score is sometimes noticeably absent, other times piercing and tense. The original music by composer João Victor Barroso delicately balances the minimal dialogue and the sounds of the sea. The sound of the rushing waves and winds actually feel like the most vital part of the soundtrack, perhaps on par with the stories that Ana shares. It almost feels as if the sea is the most vocal character within the story.The lighting and cinematography expertly handled by Cariry is naturalistic, relaxed, and at times ominous. Candlelight and sunlight are both flawlessly utilized. The image and sounds of the blind man breaking apart dead fish with his bare hands feels authentic. The sound department must have had its work cut out for them. I can't imagine how tedious it was to mix and balance all these noises.
 
This film doesn't easily fit under one label. In some ways it is a coming-of-age tale although maybe not in the traditional sense due to Son A's age. It's a mixed bag of sorts, full of fantasy, mythology, religious undertones, inner struggles, fear, hope, longing for the unknown and so much more. The desire to explore, read and learn, and look beyond one's own comfortable existence shines through. Esmerina grows later in the story, and the blind man's words of wisdom seem to have foresaw the future. It's a fantasy filled with mythical elements but somehow still feels real within its depiction.
 
"The Boat" is adapted from a short story by Brazilian author Carlos Emílio Correia Lima. Surely those unfamiliar with Lima's story will seek it out after watching this film. It will be interesting to see how the source material for this unique cinematic experience compares. Petrus Cariry made an exceptional film, which deserves to be viewed by many far and wide. Hopefully it builds momentum and makes it beyond just the film festival circuit. 
 

 

Brazil 2018

Director: Petrus Cariry

Screenwriters: Petrus Cariry, Rosemberg Cariry, Firmino Holanda

Based on the story by: Carlos Emílio Correia Lima

Cast: Samya De Lavor, Rômulo Braga, Veronica Cavalcanti, Everaldo Pontes, Nanego Lira

Producer: Bárbara Cariry

Cinematographer: Petrus Cariry

Editors: Petrus Cariry, Firmino Holanda

Music: João Victor Barroso 

72 Min. | Portuguese
European Premiere 

 

 

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About Lindsay R. Bellinger



With Dieter Kosslick during his last Berlinale.

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