Aquarius – Film Review by Frank L.
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Writer: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Stars: Sonia Braga, Maeve Jinkings, Irandhir Santos
Aquarius is a two-storied apartment block built in the fifties on the sea front in Recife, Brazil. It is where Clara has spent most of her life. It is her home from the time she was a young wife, where she has brought up her kids and now is a grandmother. It is part of her very existence. However she is the only occupier of the block as the other apartments have been bought by a developer who wants her out. However the developer has not reckoned with the determination of Clara.
The film traverses various happenings that have taken place in the apartment through the years. What these happenings make clear is that Clara is her own woman. She remains, notwithstanding her age, elegant and sexy. She has presence. She has many flaws but because of her forthrightness, determination and sheer humanity, she captivates. She is an empathetic figure even if her children at times find her impossibly stubborn.
Clara is played, in her mature years, by Sonia Braga, who was nominated for a Golden Globe award for Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985) and Moon over Parador (1988). Her career would appear to have entered a quiet phase prior to Aquarias. She moves with ease and confidence that is captivating. Her sexual power, when she chooses to use it, on a younger man or someone of her own age is without artifice. It happens naturally and with a sense that it is in the natural course of events. However the kernel of the story is her determination to remain living in the Aquarias building regardless what winkling devices the developer chooses to use to force her out. Braga is an actor of the first rank and it is a pity that she has not been visible for so many years.
The story proclaims the importance of place in a person’s life and of family but that the individual, within those boundaries, has a need to be herself or himself. The domesticity of the apartment in the block, in contrast with the pressure of financial gain when looked at the “site” on which it stands is a challenge that takes on many different guises in the Western world. Filho shows how one Brazilian woman responds to the challenge. In the process Filho has made a work of art.