Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Invisible Life: Melodrama is Not Dead In Brazilian Cinema

By José Alberto Hermosillo


“Invisible Life” is a nostalgic, affectionate, and well-crafted masterpiece.

The Brazilian/German co-production is a profound and artistic adaptation of Martha Batalha’s novel “A Vida Invisível de Eurídice Gusmăo,” depicting the lives of two sisters growing up in Brazil and their tortuous separation by their conservative parents in the 1950s - Eurídice (Carol Duarte), the extraordinary pianist/aspiring soloist; Guida (Julia Stocker), yearning to be a devoted housewife.

Invisible Life, still photo ©2019 Amazon Original.

A series of unfortunate events will determine the fate of the Gusmăo sisters. The pre-established authoritarian male structure of that time caused their dear separation.

Life sets them apart, but their hearts remain together through the illusion of writing to each other. Those undelivered letters uphold the melodrama tight till the end as a thread of a very well-structured film.

Furthermore, in the story, the parents force Euricide to marry a man who doesn’t care for her vocation. Eurídice’s strain continues rehearsing and improving herself for the long-awaited audition. 

Guida returns to her parent’s house with her broken dreams and an advanced pregnancy, forcing her to live in the streets.

At that time, women couldn’t aspire for higher education or better-paying jobs in their society, and Sexism suppressed many women’s dreams, goals, and desires.

The sisters’ experience can be compared to our mother's and grandmother's lives, who didn’t have the opportunities they deserved. They could be famous if they were only allowed to fulfill their dreams. 

“Invisible Life” is a well-told family melodrama with social and political substance, transcending to our days in defense of women’s emancipation, if we can read between the lines.
Karim Aïnouz in Los Angeles
Karim Aïnouz, director of "Invisible Life." Photo Jose Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA
Director Karim Aïnouz (“Madame Satã,” “Futuro Beach”) made a risky decision to adapt the novel to the big screen with delicacy and mastery.

Born in Fortaleza, Brazil, Aïnouz was inspired partly by the courage and the spirit of his single mother’s survival.

After a private screening in Hollywood, Aïnouz was questioned by viewers about altering the novel’s ending. He said adapting the book's conclusion to the screen took over a year. The film's end rightfully complements the entire story, making it more poetic and cinematic. The writer’s team includes Murilo Houser and Inés Botargaray in the credits.
Invisible Life, still photo ©2019 Amazon Original.
In charge of the lavishing look of the film is cinematographer Hélène Louvart. The talented DP worked in other relevant movies around the globe, such as “Happy as Lazzaro” in Italy, “Maya” in France and India; “Petra” in Spain, “Dark Night” in Florida, “Beach Rats” in New York, and now “Invisible Life” in Brazil.

With many colors and elaborate set compositions, “Invisible Life” is a tropical allegory full of liveliness, heartening emotions, and plenty of nostalgia. It is a story about women with broken wings longing for the lives they could have.

The film’s editing elongates the flow of the story and can be confusing if we don’t follow the family tree line carefully. Still, the project is enjoyable, regardless of other criticism and respectable points of view.

“Invisible Life” can be compared with other compelling and classic melodramas such as the Best Picture winner “Rebecca” by Alfred Hitchcock, “Imitation of Life” by Douglas Sirk, “Like Water for Chocolate” by Alfonso Arau, and “All About My Mother” by Pedro Almodóvar.
Invisible Life, Italian poster.
“Invisible Life” inspires women to break barriers and close the gender gap, optimistically speaking. 

The Brazilian melodrama won Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2019, the CineCoPro Award at the Munich Film Festival, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award.

The timing of this engaging melodrama couldn’t be any better as we see today’s women pushing barriers that limited previous generations from accomplishing their goals and reaching out for more opportunities, leaving behind the oppressive world remarkably and exquisitely depicted in “Invisible Life.”

Film critic José Alberto Hermosillo & director Karim Aïnouz
Jose Alberto Hermosillo, film critic. Karim Aïnouz, director of "Invisible Life." ©2019 Festival in LA

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