Dir: Gregorio Graziosi. Brazil. 2014. 80mins
A beautifully sustained black-and-white film that is clearly driven by design, images and ideas rather than story and dialogue, Gregorio Graziosi’s slow-moving story of a troubled architect is a deliberately cold and often impenetrable film, but also one worth attention due to its sheer visual rigour.
As a piece of drama, Obra offers only brief moments to intrigue in terms of formal storytelling, but where it does succeed is when it comes to its striking visual compositions that make the most of Sao Paulo’s urban vistas.
This striking Brazilian film, which screened recently at the Rio Film Festival, has the look and style of a festival favourite and while its strict sense of visual composition can be just too perfect at times there is also an intriguing story lurking beneath the perfectly ordered surface.
Obra – which translates as ‘building’ or ‘construction’ – follows a busy Sao Paulo architect (Irandhir Santos) who is perturbed to discover a hidden graveyard on a site he is working on. With his British wife (Lola Peploe) pregnant and his grandfather dying he feels he cannot communicate about the skeletons at the site, but the find does spark terrible memories as he struggles to deal with what has been discovered.
The pain he feels is reflected in his moral doubts about his own success as well as physical manifestation in the herniated disk he suffers from - cue a series of again perfectly framed shots of him moving slowly in main, and one extended scene of him slowly and painfully getting dressed. The subtext of the skeletons is that they are of political victims of the Brazilian dictatorship of the 1960s to ‘80s and that his grandfather may well have been involved.
As a piece of drama, Obra offers only brief moments to intrigue in terms of formal storytelling, but where it does succeed is when it comes to its striking visual compositions that make the most of Sao Paulo’s urban vistas. It is a film of ideas and of images – and on that level succeeds. As a drama it is less than absorbing.
Production company: Cinematografica Superfilmes
International sales: FiGa/Br, www.figafilms.com
Producers: Zita Carvalhosa
Executive producers: Leonardo Mecchi
Screenplay: Gregorio Graziosi, Paolo Gregori
Cinematography: Andre Siqueira Brandao
Editor: Gabriel Vieira De Mello
Production designer: Mario Saladini, Vera Oliveira
Main cast: Irandhir Santos, Lola Peploe, Julio Andrade, Marku Ribas, Luciana Ine Domschke, Sabrina Greve, Christiana Ubach, Marisol Ribeiro