wed 29/11/2023

Medusa review - stylish, smart, seriously strange Brazilian satire | reviews, news & interviews

Medusa review - stylish, smart, seriously strange Brazilian satire

Medusa review - stylish, smart, seriously strange Brazilian satire

A group of puritanical young women must learn to stop terrorising themselves

Evangelical girl vigilantes. Not a good look. 'Medusa'

“There are sex maniacs out there, sodomites, murderers, suicidal people, and communists on the loose! I vote for a curfew!” 

This fabulous explosion of anxiety, from a teenage girl who we’ve seen beat other young women to a pulp for no good reason, both begs to be quoted, and is indicative of the deep well of ignorant loathing and hypocrisy that informs this very funny, but also deeply serious satirical horror from the gifted Brazilian writer-director Anita Rocha da Silveira. 

While da Silveira happily wears her influences on her sleeve – Stanley Kubrick, Dario Argento, John Carpenter and Gregg Araki all spring to mind while watching it – she has an original voice of her own, which combines an arch pop sensibility with scathing social critique. 

Her first film, Kill Me Please, concerned schoolgirls experiencing life through the prism of social media, who become morbidly obsessed with a series of murders. This sophomore piece again features young women, this time in thrall to a different, even more malign influences. Medusa offers a commentary on the hardcore evangelism that is one of the more disturbing traits of contemporary Brazilian society, along with a more universal reminder of the tyranny of body fascism, especially over the young. 

Michele and the Treasures of the Lord are the alpha-females of an evangelical, cult-like church community, led by the creepily commanding Pastor Guilherme (Thiago Fragoso), whose aim is to “light the path of the deviants” and at whose sermons the girl band perform inane religious pop, including one particularly frothy song about the apocalypse. MedusaThe pastor’s message is ultra-conservative, puritan and unashamedly patriarchal. Michele (Lara Tremouroux, pictured above, centre), her best friend Mariana (Mari Oliveira) and their troupe buy into it completely, their only aspirations being perfect lip gloss and marriage to one of the Watchmen of Sion – the football jocks to the Treasures’ cheerleaders, were this a high school comedy, but here more akin to paramilitaries, who don’t think twice about beating their girlfriends. Self-styled influencer Michele’s videos include a remarkable pairing: “how to take a perfect Christian selfie” and “the secret to covering up bruises and wounds”.

How sadly ironic, then, that the Treasures’ commitment to the cause is most disturbingly expressed at night, when they don white masks and chase down other, lone women in the streets, who they deem to be ‘promiscuous’, and then beat them until they agree to “accept Jesus into your heart” (for an online video, of course). 

MedusaThe film’s focus is, actually, Mariana (Oliveira, pictured left). When an intended victim fights back, "Mari" is left scarred, her self-esteem destroyed. Sacked from her job in a plastic surgery (for oozing over the patients), she needs purpose and finds it in her plan to search for a former actress who, years before, disappeared after being disfigured by a zealot for her supposedly wicked ways. Mari’s investigation leads her to a clinic for comatose patients, where she is employed as a nurse. It’s here that her quest will have unexpected consequences, not least the awakening of her own sexual desires. 

Da Silveira moves with assurance between different modes: social satire, mystery, and a political journey towards a more positive kind of female empowerment (with shades of Carol Morley’s The Falling). She’s a little less successful with the horror element, clearly intended but lacking in commitment and, consequently, in effect; though the whole film is certainly very, very strange. 

The director is superbly assisted in her tonal shifts by production designer Dina Salem Levy, whose eye-popping pastel aesthetic gives way to a calm, swimming pool green inside the hospice, and cinematography João Atala, lighting with increasing eeriness: one shot, of the young women running and screaming in green-filtered mist, is out of this world.

Da Silveira moves with assurance between different modes: social satire, mystery, and a political journey towards a more positive kind of female empowerment


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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