EIFF 2012: ‘Girimunho’ review


Girimunho’s (Swirl, 2011) directing duo of Clarissa Campolina and Helvécio Marins Jr.’s anthropological examination of rural Brazilian culture combines the naturally evolving storytelling techniques of an observational documentary with the rich visual flourishes of an arthouse drama. Opening with a vigorous, percussion heavy song at an local gathering, its clear that the culturally significant music which soundtracks Girimunho’s spirited tale of optimism in the face of mortality will be the heartbeat which drives the film forward.

Shortly after this we observe the elderly Bastu (Maria Sebastiana Martins Álvaro) returning home and laying into her lethargic husband who has remained in the same spot in front of the TV all evening. This sarcastic verbal assault was perhaps the final nail in the coffin and he dies in his sleep, with the reoccurring apparitions of Bastu’s husband raising numerous existential questions about the metamorphosis of the soul.

Heavily improvised, the film has the look and feel of a documentary masquerading as a piece of fiction. Carefully examining the everyday lives of an impoverished Brazilian community Girimunho thankfully maintains a strong focus on Bastu. Her unflinching optimism is both invigorating and genuinely hilarious – no more so than when she finally becomes fed up of her husband’s ghost’s mischievous hauntings, she finally packs up his workshop and ships his tools in the river, before returning home to replace them with her sewing machine and exercise bike.

The juxtaposition of light and darkness is just one of the film’s remarkably effective visual techniques. Gently embellishing this organically evolving story, the picturesque cinematography of Ivo Lopes Araujo helps the audience understand that despite these exotic surroundings, there is a prevailing darkness that overshadows the lives of this small community. Whilst irrefutably a delicate meditation on the simple pleasures that can be harvested from even the simplest of lives, Girimunho sadly lets its metaphysical themes supersede any tangible action or adventure.

A languid allegory depicting death as just another stage in the cycle of life, Girimunho is an observant and incredibly charming character piece. Its lethargic pace sadly fails to keep its audience riveted throughout – yet remains a thoroughly intriguing and life-affirming experience.

The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 20 June-1 July, 2012. For more of our EIFF 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble