Desterro (2020)

Desterro [literally: without earth, exile]
Director: Maria Clara Escobar
Writer: Maria Clara Escobar
Cast: Carla Kinzo, Otto Jr., Rômulo Braga
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 27.10.2020

Laura (Carla Kinzo) and her boyfriend Israel (Otto Jr.) live with their son in a well-established routine. There is an almost comfortable distance between the two of them as they navigate their everyday life. But then Laura goes on a trip to Argentina – and dies there, leaving Israel to navigate the red tape and bureaucracy to get her body back.

After walking out of two films in a day, Desterro – the third film of that day – finally worked for me. It is unusually made and probably not to everyone’s taste, but I definitely liked it.

Laura (Clara Kinzo) looking out a window.

Desterro starts slow and you settle into the calm daily rhythm with Israel and Laura, with boredom always lurking just around the corner, but never quite getting in as you’re too wrapped up in the banalities of routine. Although the film does a couple of interesting things with the cinematography that do bring a little spice for the audience.

The film becomes really interesting in the second chapter, though, when Israel is looking for ways to get Laura’s body back home. (The third chapter is the least understated and most alive.) There were two scenes in that second chapter that really stood out to me, both involving Israel moving through the city, once to music that was like a fantastic music video/dance scene. Both scenes transported so much emotion for me. There is a second scene set to music in the third chapter, that was equally emotional. (Also, I’m a sucker for dance scenes in films, even and especially when they are not dance movies or musicals, so easy win there.)

Laura (Clara Kinzo) and Israel (Otto Jr.) having breakfast together.

The film features some sharp obeservations and interesting monologues that seem only loosely connected to the plot, but that I enjoyed regardless. And somehow they fit anyway, even if in a more associative way.

Overall while I didn’t completely adore Desterro, I think it was really strong and it is definitely worth seeing. It was very engrossing.

Laura (Clara Kinzo) alone in a subway station.

Summarizing: good.

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