Tuesday, December 31, 2019

“Invisible Life” Melodrama is Not Dead Thanks to 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” to the screen. 

The film depicts 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, and Guida (Julia Stocker), the one who yearns 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. Their separation was caused mainly by the pre-established authoritarian male structure of that time. 

When life sets them apart, their hearts remained together by the illusion of writing to each other, emotionally speaking. Those undelivered letters are the thread of the film that upholds the melodrama until the end.

Furthermore, Eurídice is forced to marry a man who doesn't care for her vocation. And Guida, after a broken relationship with a Greek sailor, upon her return, is banished from her parents' house, forcing her to look for her well-being out in the streets, where prostitution can be one of the solutions. 

At that time, sexism and tyranny suppressed women's dreams, goals, and desires – they couldn’t aspire for higher education or a better-paying job unless they pushed the bar

The sisters' experience can compare to the lives of our mothers and grandmothers who didn't have the opportunities they deserved. They could be someone famous if they only were allowed to fulfill their dreams.
Karim Aïnouz, director of "Invisible Life." Photo Jose Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA
Director Karim Aïnouz (“Madame Satã,” “Futuro Beach”) took a risky decision to adapt the novel to the big screen with delicacy and mastery. 

"Invisible Life" is not only a well-told family melodrama but a social and political document that transcends to our days in defense of women’s emancipation, if we can read between the lines.

Born in Fortaleza, Brazil, Aïnouz fluctuates residency between Berlin and New York. In the creation of “Invisible Life,” Aïnouz was inspired partly by the life of his single mother, her enormous spirit for survival, and the courage she had to take care of her children.

After a private screening in Hollywood, Aïnouz was questioned by viewers about altering the novel’s ending. He said, adapting the conclusion of the book to the screen took him more than a year. In the film, the 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 sumptuous cinematography is the talented cinematographer Hélène Louvart. She worked in other relevant films 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 a plethora of colors and elaborate set compositions, “Invisible Life” is a tropical allegory full of liveliness, heartening emotions, and plenty of nostalgia longing for all those broken wings and the life we could have had.

The editing elongates the flow of the story and can be confusing towards the end if we don't follow the family tree-line carefully, but the film is still enjoyable.


“Invisible Life” can be compared with other compelling and classic melodramas such as the Best Picture Oscar 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” won Un Certain Regard in Cannes and the CineCoPro Award at the Munich Film Festival. Now, it has a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award. The film inspires women to continue breaking barriers and closing the gender gap, optimistically speaking.

The timing of these engaging melodrama couldn't be better as we see today’s women pushing barriers that limited previous generations to accomplish their goals and reached out for more opportunities, leaving behind the oppressive world remarkably and exquisitely depicted in “Invisible Life.”
Jose Alberto Hermosillo, a film critic. And Karim Aïnouz, director of "Invisible Life." ©2019 Festival in LA
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