The translation of this Brazilian film’s title is ‘Swirl‘: a fitting name for a story told at a leisurely pace and with little interest in a plot. Watching the film is a lot like observing a swirl of water, as characters drift in and out, and life and death spin round each other. The film isn’t for everyone, as this doesn’t have a thrilling narrative or anything like a surprise twist: it is merely one eddy in a much bigger river.
At the centre of this swirl is Bastu, an octogenarian who has just lost her husband. Following her through a series of largely improvised scenes, Girimunho portrays a woman of resilience and impulsiveness, adept at both bringing up grandchildren with wisdom and kindness, as well as trading stories with other local oldies. There’s little else to the film aside from this, so it’s a good job that Bastu (played by a non-professional actress of the same name) is such an engaging and warm character. What would sound pretentious when said by almost any other film character feels genuine coming from her. This means that, come the end, it’s difficult not be moved by something as simple as as her staring out across a lake.
It’s a stunning final shot in a film characterised by strong visual aesthetic that, although sparse, glows with a restrained and simple beauty. Shot in an observational style that feels like a documentary, the camera work is largely unfussy and relies on natural lighting. As such, the frame is often dark, leaving much to the imagination. Extreme close-ups and blurred lighting create alienating images, whilst doorways and the arches of peoples bodies direct the audience to frames-within-frames. When it’s a bit lighter, the shots are immaculately composed, using the fading paint on walls and rusting metal to establish a worn but warm atmosphere. It’s a visually sumptuous and varied film, so that although the pace occasionally lags, there is always something interesting on screen.