email print share on facebook share on twitter share on google+

BERLIN 2018 Forum

Review: Mariphasa

by 

- BERLIN 2018: The second feature by Portugal’s Sandro Aguilar is an anti-narrative experiment that unfolds in a nightmarish version of Lisbon

Review: Mariphasa

The Forum section of the Berlin Film Festival played host to the premiere of the second feature by Portuguese director Sandro Aguilar. The Lisbon-born filmmaker, who made his debut at IndieLisboa and the Locarno Film Festival in 2008 with Uprise [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, has helmed more than ten short films in the meantime. Nevertheless, Aguilar, who also produced Tabu [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Miguel Gomes
interview: Miguel Gomes
film profile
]
by Miguel Gomes, has waited a total of ten years to direct Mariphasa [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, his jet-black second feature. Right from the get-go, we notice that its enigmatic title appropriates the scientific term for the magical plant from Tibet that stopped the protagonist of Werewolf of London by Stuart Walker from turning into a werewolf during nights on which there was a full moon. But in Mariphasa, there is absolutely no trace of werewolves, mad scientists or any other fantasy-film elements. The movie is more of a cryptic experiment that deconstructs both the classic noir and horror genres.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

We would certainly not be wrong to suggest that Mariphasa is the most radical offering at this year’s Berlinale. Furthermore, the three Portuguese films premiered in the Forum section – The Tree [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by André Gil Mata, Our Madness [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by João Viana and Mariphasa – share the same subversive spirit that steers the essence of all three movies towards narrative abstraction; although Aguilar’s effort, produced by O Som e a Fúria, takes said abstraction to an extreme, utterly incomprehensible level.

Before committing to watching Mariphasa, the viewer must give in and accept that its narrative mechanism will simply be impenetrable from beginning to end. The film brings together a string of empty scenes and settings that succeed one another without adhering to any type of causal or conceptual order. If we were to rationally analyse Sandro Aguilar’s experiment, we might say that his anti-film’s main characters are two lovers, a child terrified by his own nightmares, a father consumed with mourning for his daughter, who died a violent death, a hunter handling his shotgun, and a thief who goes on to poison a dog. Much like the majority of noirs or horror films, the entirety of Aguilar’s movie takes place at night, but its characters (or, rather, ghostly presences) drift around three different spaces: an industrial unit, the dwellings contained in one single building, and the dismal alleyways of Lisbon.

The fragmented mise-en-scène means that the crux of said narratively unrelated images can be found in the physicality of movements, or in the very same human bodies that carry them out, harking back to the works of French auteur Philippe Grandrieux. Following in Grandrieux’s footsteps, Aguilar builds up a perfect atmosphere of unwholesome terror, starting from an action that is as pure as it is basic: the movement of a living being. The outstanding Mariphasa introduces us to a hellish version of Lisbon that belongs not to the world of film, but rather to the world of nightmares.

Mariphasa was produced by Luís Urbano and Aguilar himself for the aforementioned O Som e a Fúria.

(Translated from Spanish)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.