Layered, lyrical ELENA

By Jose Teodoro – Now Toronto – 8/7/2014


An impressionistic memoir of loss and self-actualization, ELENA traces the eerily parallel lives of two sisters.

Elena and Petra Costa were born 13 years apart, but seeing their faces and knowing their stories, you’d think they were twins. Precariously single-minded, Elena knew she wanted to be an artist from the age of four. While still in her teens, she became a working dancer and actor in her native Brazil, then moved to New York City with dreams of a film career. When those dreams failed to materialize, she succumbed to depression and drugs and perished at 20.

As though under a spell, Petra did everything precisely as Elena did – except die. She’s now in her 30s and has lived to make this haunting film, a lyrical tapestry of home movies, disembodied voices, interviews with family and friends, and gorgeous images of women drifting in water, face up, a school of Ophelias, their dresses billowing like jellyfish. Water is the key motif in Elena, and the film’s greatest strength is its woozy fluidity.

Costa has found something universal in the exploration of a personal trauma. ELENAeveals an artist coming to terms with her inconsolable loss while knowing there’s no such thing as closure.



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