Divino Amor [Divine Love] (2019)

Divino Amor
Director: Gabriel Mascaro
Writer: Gabriel Mascaro, Rachel Daisy Ellis, Esdras Bezerra, Lucas Paraizo, Marcelo Gomes
Cast: Dira Paes, Julio Machado, Antonio Pastich, Clayton Mariano, Luciano Mallmann, Teca Pereira, Suzy Lopes, Thardelly Lima, Tony Silva, Emílio de Mello, Mariana Nunes, Thalita Carauta
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2019

Brazil, 2027. Joana (Dira Paes) works as a clerk at the registry office. Whenever she is confronted with a couple filing for divorce, she tries to convince them to stay together. Sometimes she succeeds and sometimes she manages to recruit them for the church she and her husband Danilo (Julio Machado) attend, Divino Amor. But the bigger project for their life right now is Joana trying to get pregnant. Unfortunately she and Danilo are having trouble with that.

Divino Amor is a very interesting, subtle dystopia that isn’t exactly clear-cut in its morality as dystopias usually are. But instead of interesting ambiguity, I was a little frustrated as I felt that the film avoided taking a position here.

The film poster, showing Joana (Dira Paes) and Danilo (Julio Machado) holding their hands in front of a neon dove in several concentric circles.

I have my issues with religion. I have been working hard at my own prejudice here and I do believe I have become more respectful of people’s faith, although I can’t help still being very critical of organized religion. And here we get the vision of a country where Christian fundamentalism seems to be ingrained in every aspect of how it works. Or at least in every aspect of Joana’s life.

This does not work without some bigotry involved. But up until the very end, I didn’t know if the film was pro religion/church – or contra. What may have been meant as ambiguity and a play with gray zones – which I’d usually appreciate more than just painting in simple black-and-white – felt like a cop-out for me in the end. I wanted the film to say, “look, that’s how I see it (though that’s not necessarily the truth).” This was the film’s biggest weakness for me and as it became ever more apparent as the film went one, the film became progressively less engaging. That being said, there was some absolutely fantastic stuff here.

Adults in a natural swimming pool getting baptized.

I loved how casually this is a futuristic setting where there’s barely any privacy anymore – with, for examply, health scanners as you enter the office that will announce your pregnancy to the world; or the drive-thru chapel (at least I think that’s not really a thing yet). There are also some very fascinating visuals.

In the end, though, despite the many interesting things at play here, the film left me scratching my head a little too much – and unfortunately not in a satisfying “food for thought” way.

Joana (Dira Paes) and Danilo (Julio Machado) encircling a hugging couple with their arms in dimly lit room.

Summarizing: Has some strong moments, but it wasn’t enough.

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