Aquarius review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Aquarius is a powerful cinematic experience on both micro and macro levels as well, featuring few harboring political ideologies that would deter many, piss-off few, and change the ideological stances of – no one. Because let’s face it: those things stay with you for as long as you live and breathe, and no amount of movie ideology would shatter your beliefs, bar none. But anyway, I digress. Aquarius portrays a very real struggle of a very real woman in Brazil, as struggle which is as much psychological as it’s ideological in nature; in fact, this woman battles against everyone, with no exemption from herself too.
The film follows 65-year-old Clara (played by Sonia Braga), who is also a mother of three, as she refuses to sell her apartment despite the urgings of a big real estate company. This is mainly due to the fact that her building is a remnant of a not-so-distant past, which she tries to keep afloat in the back of her head. In fact, by razing/selling this building, she would (potentially) lose the only manner at which she is known, her own identity, and everything (people and events) that makes her to be what she is. Existential dread, anyone?
In continuation, it may seem as if the story is a tad-bit clichéd, and this is true, but only in a manner in which it accompanies a strong middle-aged female which most other features would simply gloss over in a hurry. What’s even more interesting is that Aquarius doesn’t feature any twists, turns, or anything of the sorts; rather, the tension builds up through a slow, thorough, and meticulous cinematography + editing (which are top-notch), like in the scene where the real estate manager and Clara mesh things around a bit a-la John Carpenter style (director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s trademark).
Moreover, the greatest part of the film doesn’t even connect with its main plot. Clara going to parties, mingling with people, striding along with her nephew, talking to folks – it all adds up to the subtlety of her character and helps to flesh it out even more. This is Aquarius’ greatest strength – to showcase how Carla is just human.
The technical aspects of the film are all superb: cinematography is professionally done (unlike most Hollywood blockbusters); sound mixing and music are subtle enough to conjure up emotions without overwhelming the whole narrative over; editing is suspenseful and adds layers of meaning to the narrative, as well as providing grapples to which the audience can hook onto of this exact meaning.
Finally, political ideologies aside, Aquarius is perhaps the greatest Brazilian film in recent years and it would be a real shame if you’d passed this over for a quick fix of another nature instead.