Saturday, September 17, 2011

TIFF '11: Take us to the river

Gentle yet spry, shot on especially murky but not unpleasantly hued video in the Sertão region of Northeastern Brazil, from which many aspects of its narrative were derived, Swirl (Girimunho), the feature debut of directors Clarissa Campolina Helvécio Marins Jr., opens with images of bodies moving in dark streets to polyrhythmic drums and spirited singing, and it ends with a reedy, mischievous voice speaking to us softly over the image the film’s octogenarian protagonist (the source of that voice) standing some distance away from the camera, knee-deep in a river under soft daylight. In between is much diegetic music—characters play guitar and trumpet and sing improvised songs about what they’re doing in the moment, and later there’ll be a big band taking a small stage, with insanely gorgeous dancing girls in micro-skirts—serene memories of youthful love, a haunting, some travel, and the singularly lovely vision of a dead man’s clothes adrift in rippling water. “Time doesn’t stop,” Batsu explains to her granddaughter. “It’s us who stop.” Or do we? Batsu’s husband has passed on yet she hears noises in his workshop when no one is there to make them. She initially tries to persuade her husband’s ghost to let her be, with words, and perhaps her old pistol, but when these tactics fail she packs his tools and clothes in a suitcase and searches for a rightful resting place. Swirl is an unassuming work that generates all its charisma from the people it depicts, but elderly Batsu’s adorable demeanor and curious platitudes conceal lingering questions about how to proceed through life, even in its latter stages. The film is about finding one’s own rites of passage, seeking out ways of saying goodbye when one doesn’t weep—vivacious Batsu one made a pact with her husband that neither would ever cry—and granting peace to both the living and the dead.

No comments: