ELENA: The Poem I Wish I Had Written

By Ricardo Gazel – Executive Director of Inhotim – Art Museum and Botanical Garden – 5 /1/2013

elenablog11Yesterday I flew into São Paulo from Belo Horizonte to watch the film, ELENA, at the SP Film Festival. I came back today, at 3 in the morning, still a bit dizzy from all the feelings ELENA set off, stirred, calmed, and, I know, will keep on stirring, calming and setting astir for many days to come.

Elena, the film, is the poem I would have liked to have written. At times tragic as in a verse of Bandeira’s (“a whole life that could have been and wasn’t”), at times fun as in the bathtub scene when little Petra doesn’t want to sing while soaping up, but most of the time, pure feeling, distilled, as with reduced wine where the flavor is so concentrated that one tasting, as little as it may be, arouses gustatory trips along time and space. Imagine a film that is the absolute, fundamental concentration of feelings, emotions, insights, arising from the feminine soul. A film about women, made by women (the film crew is predominantly female and young) and which made me, a man, cry as I haven’t cried since my mother’s death last year.

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ELENA is not a film for the faint of heart. And yet, it is a film about redemption, about full acceptance of the human condition. When the lights came on at the end of the session last night there was absolute silence. A debate was scheduled to take place. Someone in the audience said it would be impossible to discuss, we were all still in a state of shock, we would need time to work through and absorb, even if partially, all the emotions sparked by the film to at least recover our capacity to speak before any debate. I believe ELENA led each and all of us (nobody is a mere spectator of ELENA) into our own tragedy, our own loss, our need to be redeemed. I was reminded of what I read about the first presentation of Nelson Rodrigues’ Vestido de Noiva (The Wedding Dress). When the lights turn on the audience does not react, is anaesthesized, in shock. A few minutes go by before the first applauses, which grow louder and louder, till they reach their apotheosis. When our feelings are strong and shaken up, it takes time to react; even now, twenty four hours after watching ELENA, my feelings are all astir and I feel the need to think over and reflect a while longer.

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