130 / BD 30 Vitalina Varela

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Forthcoming: Vitalina Varela

#26 Post by knives » Tue Mar 31, 2020 10:50 am

He's actually done a surprising amount of genre projects. Casa de lava is an I Walked With a Zombie adaptation for example and Ossos is clearly working within a teenage rebellion genre while Horse Money is a ghost story mixed with psychological thriller to me. He perhaps hasn't been blatant about it for a while, but its easy to pick up his technique to a genre especially one as art inspiring as noir.

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soundchaser
Leave Her to Beaver
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Re: Forthcoming: Vitalina Varela

#27 Post by soundchaser » Tue Mar 31, 2020 11:49 am

Knives, if it helps reassure you at all...
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Ventura is very much an actor playing a role in this one. I never got the sense here that he was being manipulated.

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Forthcoming: Vitalina Varela

#28 Post by knives » Tue Mar 31, 2020 2:11 pm

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I felt that was so in Horse Money as well. My issue was with the elevator scene in that movie which specifically preyed upon his dementia.

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Bikey
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2005 4:09 am

Re: 130 / BD 30 Vitalina Varela

#29 Post by Bikey » Thu May 14, 2020 8:46 am

Pedro Costa's sublime VITALINA VARELA makes its UK online premiere from May 19th at MUBI UK.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: 130 / BD 30 Vitalina Varela

#30 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat May 23, 2020 2:32 pm

Well Costa has finally made a film to win me over, though it shouldn't be a surprise as he conveys the experience of how one copes without a cathartic path to expel grief. The boiling of this emotional bloating inside Varela leads to contemplations on loneliness, resentment, and living with death’s aggressively silent presence in existential rut. Costa’s steady camera and patient detailing slows life down to make us feel every exchange as a meditative presence, and keeps a neutrality of calmness to harness the continual transformations of internal tone that haunt Varela under our very nose; like a cool sun by which all the planets orbit.

I can see hearthesilence’s comparison to noir, as this inability to relieve herself of enigmatic weight causes suffering that is adaptably displaced onto searching for meaning. It’s a one-way ticket, a moody consequence of dissolving the self down to a single motive, and yet here it’s more powerful than any noir: the meaning behind experience universal and singular. Death, loss, survival, a perception of wasted time resulting in regret, and perseverance bypassing acceptance toward demanding tangibility with agency.

These broad ideas hit me deep, but it’s also Varela’s personalized account that involved me beyond myself into this unique narrative. And yet, in Varela’s specific circumstances reflects our own regrets, sacrifices, anger, and self-pity - that awful shameful feeling that none of us want to admit is there. Varela sure doesn’t, as a strong, stoic survivor, but it’s there. Costa validates this: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I waver on Costa because I struggle with the fine line between manipulation and empowerment his style and filmmaking choices signify. Here he hits a very sensitive area that manifested as total empathy and curiosity without overbearing invasiveness. Varela is like a film noir protagonist who has already failed to greet their fatalistic finish in step with the existential goal that would coincide with death (after 25 years of being on the trail!), and instead of physical death, she lived on without a blueprint for meaning as a walking form of the spiritual deceased. This makes it a noir and a ghost story, but one where she’s alive feeling dissociated from the structure of her life, not exactly aided by being in a new country without familiarity or supports.

There is something that lends itself to horror about this predicament, and it could be emblematic of hell or a lucid nightmare. It’s also beautiful, breathing deep levels of oxygen into tranquil spaces that leave opportunities for reflection and acceptance. Whether Varela takes them each time isn’t the point; what matters is that they’re there. This is as much a celebration of life as an allegory for death of the soul. It’s about the kinetic energy between exerting the will and letting go. The entire composite also speaks to the experience of life itself - trapped in a pit of nebulous circumstances where philosophy cannot cure emotional dysregulation, and we must endure; and in that endurance we find meaning.

However, this film’s ending makes it clear that this doesn’t mean harmony or catharsis, but a paradoxical license to our subjective interpretation of the cosmos, and a fluidity of surrender to forces outside of us. The development of a worldview to help us cope doesn’t mean a wholly optimistic support.

This makes me want to go back and re-evaluate my position on Costa. I’m not sure if I’m missing the mark, but while there is an almost unavoidable exploitative lens here, the darkening of scenery to light the characters as oil paintings accentuates their place in their milieus, and breaks down all dishonest influence to reveal a pure emphasis on honest expression. Through this artificial tool comes the utmost respect for the subjects themselves, and thus unconditional affirmation for their emotional experiences; literally and figuratively illuminating their humanity.

Speaking of manipulation though, I have a question about the ending for those who have seen the film:
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Did Varela actually die (which means the figure approaching her grave at the end is a ghost)? Or was that “she” just a sike-out from Costa?

I prefer the former reading, with her presence cutting through the exaggerated realism of the film as a spirit. The final shot would play the same though, assuming that’s her on top of the house, participating in life and working on herself after muted inspiration lifted her out of hopelessness just enough to turn attention outward. It’s a beautiful kind of existential absurdism by way of Camus’ take on Sisyphus, only planted in corporeal context in a gravely-serious manner. "Build your house well."

dda1996a
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am

Re: 130 / BD 30 Vitalina Varela

#31 Post by dda1996a » Sun May 24, 2020 2:13 am

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I have no reason to believe she died, as there is no reason for it to happen - she's very much alive (both in real life, and she is never showed dying), and the graves are holes she dug in the scene before. I thought it was her way of helping and paying back Venture, and helping the other dead as a way of freeing herself from her husband's death. Once she did, we finally see daylight (there is daylight in one other scene that is in the present, and it shines from outside into the dark house, which Vitalina chooses to shy away from and stay inside.
The end is very much a flashback, as she described those actions very clearly as her shared work with her husband - it is again an excavation of her memories towards something hopeful and happy, as opposed to her feeling of regret and shame.
I found this to be the most "mainstream", or easiest of the post Ossos films (mainstream isn't a good fit here, but I meant it is the most engaging), even though I do love almost every Costa I've seen (only Colossal Youth was a Colossal disappointment), and I was hit hard how emotional Costa could make me in such a slow-cinema Straub/Bresson like arthouse film - no easy feat. Even though I still prefer his Carax/Murnau like debut, Blood.
Said that, Costa is in my opinion the most difficult director of the arthouse world - I really can't think off the top of my head of someone as difficult. He makes Tsai, Tarr and Martel look like Hollywood by comparison!

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: 130 / BD 30 Vitalina Varela

#32 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun May 24, 2020 2:32 am

dda1996a wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 2:13 am
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I have no reason to believe she died, as there is no reason for it to happen - she's very much alive (both in real life, and she is never showed dying), and the graves are holes she dug in the scene before. I thought it was her way of helping and paying back Venture, and helping the other dead as a way of freeing herself from her husband's death. Once she did, we finally see daylight (there is daylight in one other scene that is in the present, and it shines from outside into the dark house, which Vitalina chooses to shy away from and stay inside.
The end is very much a flashback, as she described those actions very clearly as her shared work with her husband - it is again an excavation of her memories towards something hopeful and happy, as opposed to her feeling of regret and shame.
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Fair enough, I saw no reason for it to have happened either, except for what felt like a manipulative narrative tool: cutting a dramatic scene to an undetermined amount of time later (it was finally daylight) when someone approaches Venture (I believe?) to say "she died" explaining a candle fell on her bed. Since she was the only prominent female character, this indicated to me that Varela had died. After a funeral/burial, she walks up from a blind spot in the distance to stand next to him, looking at the grave. I perceived it as an audience trick, maybe I read that whole scene wrong or missed something that would have given it more context.

Either way, I agree with your assessment of why the ending worked, though I took the final shot to be a replication of her descriptions of those scenes, with Varela continuing on to do that work now with Venture. When she takes that breather break to pause, I saw it to be partly out of exhaustion of being older, and also to demonstrate further resilience and a capacity to pause and sit with her emotions, whilst continuing to engage with the world.

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