Having recently lived through a pandemic—though many of us may assume we are still living through one—I found that the details of this Brazilian debut feature, filmed in 2019 before COVID, make it more interesting than it really is: the incipient boredom, the increasingly prickly feelings toward fellow shut-ins, the unhealthy focus on screens and social media. However, that experience also made the premise less credible, because I couldn’t readily suspend disbelief. The Pink Cloud fits rather snugly into the “dystopian future” genre even if it feels contemporary, and I wondered why these people had to live this way. In a nutshell, pink clouds have materialized worldwide, their source completely unknown and their effect deadly—a mere ten seconds of exposure will kill you. So everyone is told to stay indoors with the windows closed until the clouds dissipate, which they never do. That means everyone has to stay put indefinitely in the place where they initially take shelter.
Even without seeing the movie, you can understand the difficulty writer-director Iuli Gerbase has in maintaining this conceit, and at one point he shows his hand by having a young woman, who is hunkering down without any physical companionship, asks desperately to anyone who will listen why the authorities have not come up with some way for people to move around, like, say, with special masks? It’s a good question, but one that Gerbase doesn’t bother answering because his concerns are more dramatic and ruminative. The protagonists are a young couple, Giovana (Renata de Lelis) and Yago (Eduardo Mendoca), who were simply hooking up for a Tinder date when clouds floated into their lives and they are forced to repair to Giovana’s mother’s empty apartment, which, fortunately for them, is spacious and comfortably appointed. At first, the prospect of being stuck together for a while has a certain sexy appeal, but quickly the two have to contend with their basic philosophical differences, which are manifested in the question of whether either wants to have children. This is perhaps the cleverest of Gerbase’s plot gambits, because it immediately clues the viewer in to what sorts of persons these two are in terms of interactive communication. As it stands, Yago has always wanted kids while Giovana has never wanted them, and, of course, eventually she gets pregnant. During the pregnancy and especially the birth (coached remotely by a very patient female obstetrician) the movie makes good on its promise of giving us some idea of how this unlikely situation would play out under the circumstances depicted, but as the movie progresses Gerbase has to come up with ever fresh ideas to keep us interested, and mostly what he provides is variations on a theme of incompatibility and having the principals think of new ways to cope with it.
What kept me intrigued was, of all things, the production design, with its constantly fluctuating pink tint, reminding you that the cloud was ever present outside the large picture windows. If anything, Gerbase knows how to make monotony threatening in a pictorial way without resorting to disconcerting extremes, but in the end he couldn’t satisfactorily answer the movie’s central question: How do boring people get through a crisis like this without killing each other?
In Portuguese. Now playing in Tokyo at Shinjuku Cinema Qualite (03-3352-5645), Human Trust Cinema Shibuya (03-5468-5551).
The Pink Cloud home page in Japanese
photo (c) 2020 Prana Filmes