Gabriel Mascaro | Divino Amor
[…] «Divino Amor» grandiosely expresses the aesthetic core of this cultural colonisation in building a fictional religion whose rituals and appearances are minimalist and highly artificial. So artificial that light itself becomes an object of manipulation.
[…] The Christian divine will let its necessarily scandalous voice be heard, and Joana’s story becomes the story of the possible implosion of any system that tries to saturate humans.
Filmexplorer had the chance to meet and interview Gabriel Mascaro during the Zurich Film Festival 2019
Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore
During the same week, Gabriel Mascaro’s Divino Amor had its premiere in Brazilian cinema theatres and Jair Bolsonaro became the president of Brazil: an incredible coincidence that has delivered a virus and the anti-virus at the same time. The virus is not only the newly rampant fascism (actually spread worldwide) but, more precisely, its biopolitical intentions, that are oriented towards the enslavement of people through complete control of their bodies. If religion and bureaucracy are the focuses of Divino Amor, it is precisely because they are powerful instruments for such biopolitical intentions. The different groups of the Evangelists and the new Pentecostals are the current religious actors of this barbaric turn in Brazil – and Bolsonaro also happens to have a second name after Jair: Messias…
Gabriel Mascaro is able to reveal the hidden feature of these booming religions through the film, which is their ability to manipulate the people thanks to great flexibility in the adaptations and appropriations of traditions, cultures, languages, and aesthetics. Their protestant iconoclastic background serves the scopes of a quick inculturation that becomes cultural colonisation. Divino Amor grandiosely expresses the aesthetic core of this cultural colonisation in building a fictional religion whose rituals and appearances are minimalist and highly artificial. So artificial that light itself becomes an object of manipulation.
Contrary to Tiago Melo’s Azougue Nazaré (2017), which directly thematises the phenomenon of the Evangelists in Brazil, there is no room for naturalism in Divino Amor. Even if life and procreation are at the core of the new religious dogma, nature is absent insofar as it is fully controlled and enslaved. Therefore, it seems “natural” that Mascaro’s film plays with the genre of science-fiction, exploiting its traditional fear of a system that carries out global control and is animated by utopia. If in Mascaro’s previous film, Neon bull (2015), dreams play a decisive role in remaining just dreams, here the religious utopia is the realization of a dream that appears to turn into a nightmare – at least for us viewers.
Joana is the main character but is far from being the heroic antagonist of the system. As a strict believer of the religion of Divino Amor, she allows us to enter the perspective of the manipulative utopia. But Joana will also be the one who is able the break the system; this will happen not because of her being converted, but due to her strong belief. She conceives a fatherless boy, whom she cannot but perceive as being a new Messiah. The original subversive sources of Christianity emerge through Joana, threatening the oppressive system of a religion that will thereby be revealed as fully secularised. The Christian divine will let its necessarily scandalous voice be heard, and Joana’s story becomes the story of the possible implosion of any system that tries to saturate humans. The last scene with the nameless boy will constitute a sort of triumph of the accident, the celebration of the body and of its uncontrollable nature, the redemption of freedom.
Gabriel Mascaro’s choice of the renowned actress Dira Paes for the role of Joana is not only particularly good in sustaining a difficult character to play, but is also a gesture that makes an important part of Brazilian popular culture flow into Divino Amor. With her, it is as if a large number of Brazilians can experience, and probably anticipate, the futuristic saga of an insane utopia, all the way up to the eventual liberation from the fascist oppression that currently looms over Brazil. Playing with their names, I would say that with Divino Amor Gabriel announces the possible awakening from Messias’ nightmare…
Screenings in September 2020 at Kino Xenix Zürich
Divino Amor | Film | Gabriel Mascaro | BRA-URU-DK-NOR-CHL-CH-SWE 2019 | 101’ | Zurich Film Festival 2019
First published: October 17, 2019