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As Linhas da Minha Mão.jpg

Seismography of a Process

As Linhas da Minha Mão (João Dumans, 2023, MG)

by Pedro Henrique Ferreira

          In general terms, As Linhas da Minha Mão, the second feature film by João Dumans (preceded by the co-direction of Arábia with Affonso Uchoa), is a documentary that follows, during a certain period, the actress and performer Viviane de Cássia Ferreira in a series of routine meetings that seem to be somewhat disconnected: a chat to conjecture around questions thrown up by a book by Nietzsche. Another moment, of the artist describing and preparing a forthcoming artistic performance that would help her overcome the death of her mother. A meeting with a friend to tell an episode about a tremendous blunder by a SUS employee, and another to turn to the camera and, in the street, talk about a time she had sex with a stranger in a train bathroom. If, at the beginning, the reason for the episodic and prosaic mosaic does not seem so clear, little by little her personality conquers the screen and becomes herself - her presence, voice, and drama (the three in one) - the central issue of the film. These are processes of construction and self-revelation.


         As Linhas da Minha Mão opts for a remarkable sobriety and somewhat rudimentary resources - most of the time, a series of close-ups of dilated duration, giving time and breath to the figure with whom the director evidently (it’s quite visible in the film, although he does not place himself as a character and even avoids this interaction gaining centrality) has created an affective relationship. The temporal modulation - his bloc and structural strategy - detains us for many hours on his face in a rather mundane relationship. The play between filmic device and the act of representation are all the time in dialectic, and sometimes gain thematic frontality, but the solidity of the camera sticks to the same kind of sober register, without losing the most immediate layer of observation of her character's process of self-creation - the act of undressing herself as a being to us, the observers. It is true that Viviane is already an incredible figure in her own right - her life story, her awareness of the world, and what she faces alone - but the risk is perhaps even greater because of this. I am talking about the risk that the feature film faces of reducing the complexity of this experience by an excess of verbiage or by the desire to channel in a single direction the meaning of her lines and expressions. Even in the final performance, the most 'stylized' moment and one that stands out slightly from the rest of the film, it is charged - like the rest of the film - by a dubious spirit of pain and appeasement, liberation and umbrage, joy and melancholy. 

          I think the strength of As Linhas da Minha Mão can be explained by one of the few shots that does not frame its protagonist or with whom she is in dialogue, that of a man playing a strident harmonica, a marked face emitting a melodic phrase - the camera lingers a bit on him. There is a kind of poetics sought in this type of gaze: the close-up serves neither to put its object against the wall and insist that something comes from it, nor as a frame for a performance pure and simple (as a film about an artist, it is more connected to the inner process that produces the art than to its result), nor to make a psychoanalytical probe of the characters or make their wrinkles and textures a corporeal matter. It is neither sign, nor signifier. This very elementary cinematographic tool here operates in a simple and tender way, it slowly extracts, in a seismographic way, something from what it sees, it lingers on this something until it also reveals itself as something else, simultaneously opposite and complementary to what we had seen before. The face shows more the doubts (to go ahead as a shepherd, genius or deserter?; to be genuine or not?) than the convictions. In the man with the bagpipe dwell at the same time sickness and sanity, an artistic performance and an everyday banality, that kind of contradictory truth that cinema, more than words, can crystallize; but which, at the same time, requires great maturity to be able to make happen.

          Perhaps the real beauty of As Linhas da Minha Mão is the fact that the libel against psychic normativity and the praise of art as an elixir for the hysteria or neuroses that modern, capitalist society imposes on us (and at the same time forces us to disguise) does not come simply uttered in a self-indulgent performance, where the trance loses all its true subversive power to become a cliché of ready-made phrases, a rectilinear staging of the manual of good libertarian and narcissistic morals (and how many times hasn’t contemporary cinema fallen into this trap); but rather, by the simple observation of a face that contains all the contradictions behind the process, which carries at the same time the disease and its potential for cure, and reveals to us how incredible the figure that overcomes it is, but also how much she suffers from it. It is easy to talk about delicacy and affection, easy also to simulate them, but difficult is to actually conquer them. Dumans' film makes a revealing move for the post-pandemic moment in this sense, for the tender closeness it promotes - the closeness between the gaze and the face - is not the psychoanalytic cure of the character, but somewhere, in a film of a minor tone and not at all apotheotic, a will to listen that is important for the world itself. The shot lands and lingers on her face (and the faces of others) with the same standoffish gentleness, the same sense of familiarity, that a bird lands on the roof of the house every morning. Time goes by and all the nuances of this face are revealed, showing us its victories and defeats, insecurities and courage, a complex and contradictory myriad amalgamated in one and the same image. At this point, it no longer matters whether what we see is staged or not. The feeling that has sprung up there is real.

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