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Inhabiting a movie

Vermelho Bruto (Amanda Devulsky, 2022, DF)

by Pedro Henrique Ferreira

               The monumental effort that Vermelho Bruto [raw red] makes involves the articulation between two different discursive layers: the record of the daily lives of four women who were teenage mothers, coming from different social strata and during more or less the same period, and a clouded portrait, which emerges from the images like erasures that build up throughout the film, of the erasure of the place of the feminine in the New Republic of Brazil. This association is quite indirect; it emerges in the tangle of images that, first, do not reveal who produced them (the women hardly appear, most of the time, the image is that of their looks, what they see), or whose voice is in the off-screen narration that we hear (the accounts of the four have similar aspects and there seems to be a deliberate effort to hide who emits them), or the exact time when they take place (archive images of the past are mixed with recently filmed moments of the present). The idea of Amanda Devulsky's feature seems to be to produce a sense of indiscernibility, inconstancy, but also of repetition, that nothing has exactly changed and we are trapped in an eternal return, a nimbo of immutability. One line seems to repeat or complete another, but we no longer know where it came from, and we go on without knowing - it is associated, in a remarkable work of disjunctive montage, with something that does not necessarily match - the most palpable moments (a scene about work or another with the family) alternate with a series of formal explorations of the material. That the records blend together, and the images function as a centripetal and rhizomatic swarm, a kind of whirlwind of cells into which we dive to fish here and there for the meaning of each one, only contributes to the mixed feeling of being at once encased as we reach out to see what can be held from the flow. This strengthens the discourse of erasure of the feminine and the sense of blockage of its place in the country of recent decades.


               Perhaps the greatest paradox of Vermelho Bruto is that, although it presents itself as a fundamentally temporal fruition experience, in which a certain flow of time is necessary for us to access the power of the stories it carries, for us to understand the logical operation that moves it and its actors/characters, for its motif to finally come to light for the spectator, it is a fundamentally spatialized film: we do not experience it as a construction that moves us neither in a straight line (a narrative that goes from one point to another), nor in a spiral, where there is a centrifugal propulsive core (and the images spring from this center, as in Limit), bifurcated, in an abyss or whatever; Instead, it presents itself as an inert structure, a database building or installation - Borgian universal library - in which one must inhabit for a certain time to understand it, remain inside long enough to enjoy it, and then leave it after the chord that mobilizes it has echoed enough, or because the establishment has closed early. It is a film that lasts between three and four hours, but could last only one and a half, or perhaps two or three days - at most, or at least, a week, depending on how long it takes for you, the tenant, to think it is enough to access its balm. And yet, at the same time, Vermelho Bruto is not an art installation inside a museum: it is a cinematic experience that unfolds as a straight-line becoming in the movie theater.


               In its worst moments, Vermelho Bruto appeals too much to the transformation of the file into texture as a form of climatizer, alternating this raw, carnal state of the image with another, encapsulated state of meaning, which seems to be where the film truly happens. So whether there is a tender scene in which we follow the point of view of a woman who, in the loneliness of the streets, arrives home after a hard day's work, or another, when a child feels disgust and fear of the election results and her mother consoles her (among other incredible finds in Amanda Devulsky's film), the problem is that quickly the association she might make with another scene of the same kind is intercut by a series of 'mood' moments where a soundtrack of strained harmony is filled in by the formal exploration of the material fabric that the file possesses. Raw Red plays with our misunderstanding to transform what, on another plane of the film itself, is rhetorically, historically, and emotionally potent, into a battle between a work of art and its intrinsic, pale, raw record material. It is a way of making what is said seem more complex, less tied up, more profound and sentimental, because we need to alternate the mode of fruition from hour to hour, even though it is not necessarily and truly so (or rather, that this is not what makes Vermelho Bruto a great film). It is a way of resorting to affection as the general mobilizer of the editing, when the feature film and its material are already more than enough. It backfires somewhat, especially when we are forced to endure it for a long time.


               Only, in truth, not even this matters, because Vermelho Bruto survives, and too well, from its most articulated scenes in the realm of discourse; from the moments in which the historical truth of female erasure gains materiality, becomes a prosaic fact in the lives of these four women, and the world itself gives truth to the thesis, to the same extent that it makes visible what it puts itself to the test. The film and the material raised, as well as the device rigged and the result of it, already generate enough strength - a power inherent to them - so that the film does not need to resort to the artifices of video art or the game of textural manipulation. The power of the images are self-sufficient, and if there is an expressive desire in resorting to a work of waiting construction and careful formal investigation, the truth is that they are more easily forgettable than a child's cry upon learning of Jair Bolsonaro's election or simply of an empty street in Brasília. In this sense, Vermelho Bruto would not need to hide or disguise itself from anything, nor emulate the depth that its best moments already have; it already survives quite well.


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