Review: Life in Common
by Marta Bałaga
- Part of the festival's final session in 2020, Diogo Pereira's film sticks to the small scale but fails to make a big impact
Chosen as a proud representative of Doclisboa's December session called Spaces of Intimacy, Diogo Pereira’s Life in Common shows precisely that: the space of intimacy that is an elderly's couple home. Although arguably, not everyone else would see it as such, as their whole neighborhood of Barruncho, on the outskirts of Lisbon, is threatened with demolition.
The house of Poeta and Belinha – together for over 50 years – is also barely standing, a combination of some wood here and an old mattress there. But they don't seem to mind that much – it's their place and it has served them well. What others would rather immediately bulldoze to the ground, they try to keep in pristine order. Frequently seen tidying up or sweeping, they show this basic need to have at least a corner one could come back to and care for, a hideaway from the world and the rain. And it really seems to be raining here all the time. Even though it might be taken away from them soon, they just keep on going, busying themselves with their daily chores instead of pondering the future.
Pereira seems very curious about the couple and their community, probably the only one in the entire world where in a grocery shop you can take your change in candies. But he fails to find an original hook, settling for a familiar and dull depiction of simple routines. His long, mostly wordless takes do mirror the couple's life in a way, as these two certainly don't like to gossip too much. But they can pose a challenge to just about any viewer, since even though it's easy to feel for these two, following them around requires massive amounts of patience.
What's interesting however is that despite their meagre surroundings, their existence is based on self-sufficiency, something most people are repeatedly told to strive for these days. They have just enough, and what they lack they will grow, surrounded by their goats or watering plants in their makeshift garden. They are also not the ones to complain, sharing tales about their past sufferings as if in passing, since there is no need to hurry – not when you observe the rain or walk down the road. Following them around requires great endurance, yes, but maybe Pereira heard what everyone has been repeating, especially this year, and just decided to slow the hell down too.
Life in Common was produced by the Sarajevo Film Academy and film.factory.
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