Aquarius is a Brazilian movie that screened earlier this year at Cannes. It’s a layered, three part story that the director/writer, Kleber Mendonça Filho divides into three parts: Clara’s Hair, Clara’s Love, and Clara’s Cancer.
The film is unusual for a few reasons: at the center of it is Sonia Braga, who stars as Clara—an older woman who lives alone in her apartment complex because she refuses to move, much to the disappointment to well, everyone around her. Filho also doesn’t feel the need to rush his pacing—much of the time the audience is treated to moments of silence with Clara as we see her walk, swim, sleep. Part of the reason this film works is because Braga is able to fill the screen with her presence—we feel for Clara when she’s simply being.
The film is able to delve into subtleties of living in Brazil by exploring Clara’s story: race relations still at play, the corruption of the Brazilian government. The central conflict of the film is Bonfim, a construction company, has bought up the entire apartment building in which Clara lives (called the Aquarius) except for hers and they want her to move out—now. She gets it from her children as well. In the middle of the story, her daughter actually tells her that it’s unsafe and she had talked to Bonfim behind her back.
At a time when it’s unusual to see older women as the center of films, it’s very interesting to see what Filho does with this story and how Braga inhabits it. The result is a complex, layered movie that’s tender and nostalgic all at the same time. The question is if anyone will have the patience for it.
We screened the film at the New York Film Festival. For tickets visit here: https://www.filmlinc.org/nyff2016/films/aquarius/