This is one piece in a collection of 10 film reviews submitted by this year’s New Wave Jury members at Cornwall Film Festival 2021. The collection tackles recent films that stood out as radical works of filmmaking. You can read the other reviews here.
Directed by Catarina Vasconcelos, A Metamorfose dos Pássaros, or The Metamorphosis of Birds (2020) takes a distinctively poetic approach to its format. Not only does it feature layered visuals that induce further complex readings, but it also juxtaposes those same images with moving dialogue. "What about trees? Did they already exist before us? / -There are trees that saw mom and dad being born. There are trees that saw our parents' parents being born. There are trees that saw our parents' parents' parents being born. / - And do we live as long as the trees? / – I don’t think so." A dialogue between two boys laying in bed, wondering about life, while the moon lights up their room.
Vasconcelos shares with us the memories and emotions of her family, offering this film to anyone open to receive it. Through the lens of memory and the frames of imagination, A Metamorfose dos Pássaros guides us through an emotional journey of loss that leads to the metamorphosis of the director herself and her father, Jacinto.
Even though we can tell that this is a personal project for Vasconcelos, it's amazing that we, as an audience, are still able to relate to it and find a sense of intimacy with its characters. It is a meditative journey where we are invited to search for something within ourselves while gazing at Catarina drowning under the small river waves or gazing at the still rocks high up in the mountain. We stop to look inwards at our existence and the time we have left to gaze at something or someone once again. It is an experience that we don't usually find on screen and we end up thinking about it even after the film ends.
This film is full of nuances, not only in its colours and mise en scène, but also within its voice. It is incredible that amidst all such poetry and beauty, Vasconcelos still finds the space and time to remind the viewer that this world, where these people happen to live, is still a world lacking equality and respect.
A Metamorfose dos Pássaros is above all a beautiful reminder that time flies by without us noticing, because, in the end, our death is just "something of the ones alive." By the time we are gone, we will be somewhere else migrating alongside the birds.