Clarice Lispector – The Discovery of the World

Annika Elisabeth von Hausswolff, Oh Mother What Have You Done #032, 2021
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By JOSÉ GERALDO COUTO*

Comment on the film directed by Taciana Oliveira

Clarice Lispector (1920-77), our greatest writer, would have turned 102 this Saturday, December 10th. She died the day before her 57th birthday. Coinciding with the event, the documentary Clarice Lispector – The Discovery of the World, by debutant in feature films Taciana Oliveira.

Two precious documents serve as an axis for the heterogeneous construction of the film: the audio recording of the statement recorded by Clarice in October 1976 at the Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janeiro and the interview given by her in December of the same year to the program The Magicians, from TV Culture.

Around the often disconcerting lines of the writer about her own work and personality, the director and her screenwriter, researcher and biographer Teresa Montero, built a mosaic that includes testimonials from relatives (son Paulo, cousin Bertha Cohen, a niece, etc.) and friends, such as artist Maria Bonomi, writers Ferreira Gullar and Nélida Piñon, journalist Alberto Dines, filmmaker Luiz Carlos Lacerda and editor Paulo Rocco. The picture is completed with rich iconographic material, images of the places where Clarice Lispector lived (mainly Recife and Rio de Janeiro) and voiceovers of her texts by actors and, above all, actresses.

Whoever speaks most in the film are the writers Marina Colasanti and Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna, who accompanied the writer's testimony to the MIS and were close friends in her last years of life.

The testimonies are all relevant and illuminating aspects of Clarice Lispector's life and career, from the anxieties of everyday life to her thorny relationship with writing itself, from the difficulty of paying bills and raising children to flights of imagination.

“With all pardon of the word, I am a mystery to myself”. The Clarice phrase that serves as an epigraph to the documentary sets its tone and establishes its limits: it is an elusive figure in its entirety.

One of the first statements we hear from her is about her peculiar speech, with its stony “r's”. “There are people who think it's a foreign accent, but it's a native language. I am entirely Brazilian”, says the writer charmingly, who was born in Ukraine, but arrived in Maceió when she was less than two years old and spent most of her childhood and adolescence in Recife, before moving with her family to Rio.

Her deep connection with Brazil – the sea, the sun, the culture, the everyday language – was accentuated in the many years she lived outside the country, accompanying her diplomat husband. This Brazilianness of hers is commented on by several of the interviewees.

In the rich and varied life that unfolds throughout the documentary, the not always peaceful relationship between motherhood and the writer's craft stands out. Clarice Lispector considered her “mission” as a mother more important than her literary activity, which explains her anguish and feeling of guilt for judging that she did not know how to deal satisfactorily with her eldest son, Pedro, diagnosed as schizophrenic. The subject is treated indirectly and discreetly in the film.

Some well-known episodes in the writer's life, such as the small fire that, caused by a nap and a cigarette, disfigured one of her hands, are illuminated from various angles, as well as her deep friendship and platonic passion for the writer Lucio Cardoso, a confirmed homosexual. The almost umbilical relationship with the sisters, Elisa and Tania, is also highlighted.

The result of patient research work and the search for sources, the documentary was produced in stages over the course of fifteen years. Thanks to this circumstance, the film features the participation of several interviewees who are no longer with us, such as Alberto Dines, Ferreira Gullar, Lêdo Ivo and great friend Sarah Escorel.

The most vulnerable point of Clarice Lispector – The Discovery of the World, in my view, is an attempt to build an audiovisual poetry in dialogue with the author's work. Postcard sunsets, abuse of slow motion and an excess of music create a sentimental “fat” that certainly has little to do with Clarice Lispector's writing.

None of this takes away, of course, the importance of the documentary and its interest not only for the writer's fans, but also for those who still don't know her greatness.

*José Geraldo Couto is a film critic. Author, among other books, of André Breton (Brasiliense).

Originally published on CINEMA BLOG

Reference


Clarice Lispector – The Discovery of the World

Brazil, documentary, 2022, 103 minutes.

Directed by: Taciana Oliveira

Screenplay: Teresa Montero

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