Otsoga's Diaries

Image: Carlos Cruz–Diez


Considerations on the film by Miguel Gomes and Maureen Fazendeiro

O tree of the platforms of streaming made the world's great cinematographic elite bow before limited, empty, dubious and category B content. Today, the Hollywood and global orchestra follows the regency of an increasingly alienated and attached audience blockbuster. It is sad to realize that production companies, filmmakers and screenwriters do not dare to invest in more experimental, risky and powerful cinematic experiences.

Fortunately, this has not been the case – so far – of Portuguese cinema, whose films have been praised for their independence, bravery, delicacy, versatility and aesthetic breadth, often ignoring the differences between short, medium, feature, documentary and animation, preferring innovative works, in which we rethink what films are, what they are for or who they are for.

In this sense, Otsoga's Diaries figures as an interesting exponent. The feature film by Miguel Gomes and Maurren Fazendeiro debuts as one of the best cinematographic experiments of 2022. The work is a provocative and playful deconstruction of the representational codes of conventional cinema, which invites the spectator to dive into a narrative full of possibilities, intentions, visions, emotions and rhythms.


Crista, Carloto, João and liquid relationships

In the film by the couple Miguel Gomes and Maurren Fazendeiro, we can clearly see the assumptions of the theory of liquid modernity, a theory created by the Polish sociologist Zygmund Bauman.

Yes, clearly, the film is an ode to the present time. In Zygmund Bauman's theory, the concept of “liquid modernity” is used precisely to define the present time. The sociologist made the metaphor of the “liquid” the main aspect of the state of these changes.

Therefore, contemporary life forms, according to the sociologist, are similar in terms of vulnerability and fluidity, unable to maintain their identity for a long time, which reinforces a temporary and fragile state of social relations and human ties. In Otsoga's Diaries, the trio of protagonists begins to feel vulnerability, fluidity and the inconstancy of time firsthand, all in a very personal and subjective way.

At that point, itself, for them time passes in six ways: inertia, disorientation, apathy, euphoria, completeness and confusion. Such stages of time are purposeful, they reflect the atmosphere of the pandemic, and are the common basis of the trio, from this, each one has a very intimate way of feeling the impact of the influence of time in his life – this is also expressed in the creation the dogs, the swimming pool, the discussions between the film crew, the opening and closing parties and the almost theatrical dialogues of the trio.

The trio's relationship can also be observed in the context of liquid modernity, after all, human bonds have the chance of being broken at any time, causing a willingness to social isolation, where many people choose to experience a solitary routine – in the feature film, this remains visible in the routine of building the butterfly house, in the household chores and in the 22 days that make up the diary.

From this angle, since Crista (Crista Alfaiate), Carloto (Carloto Cotta) and João (João Nunes Monteiro) experience a liquid relationship, together they emerge to individualism, the fluidity and ephemerality of a relationship mediated by time. Zygmund Bauman explains that connections can be made, undone and redone – over the course of the 22 days, this fact gains space in the core of each one.


the art of experimentation

Starting from the scientific origin of experimentation, Barbara Turquier recalls that the art that experiments imposes a rule of action that makes it possible to experiment with a material, to experiment with its plastic, graphic, narrative or sound possibilities, in order to reveal resources of meaning.

Barbara Turquier points out that experimental aesthetics is committed to blurring the visible, imposing its own operating and reading codes, causing confusion, revealing the habits of the gaze, giving the spectator an active role, and clarifying the narrative.

From this perspective, the work of the filmmaking couple is inspiring. Gomes and Fazendeiro present the playful handling of cinematographic tools, convey to the spectator a unique experience of collective construction, share the technical involvement of a large part of the montage (which is done gradually throughout the film), build the argument in a credible way , doable and frank, and document the whole process in an authentic and direct way. The fact that it is on the spectrum of experimental cinema adds a lot to the work.


public and streaming

Consequently, it happens that this type of production goes less and less to the cinema, because despite numerous annual productions, today, experimental films are neglected. Unfortunately, the public perception is that it is not worth paying to see them in the cinema.

So much so that most films of the genre are released directly on now and on dozens of platforms streaming (mainly in nature and public cult). The experimental, independent films, cults, indies and the like are shown for a short time in movie theaters. The general public prefers the blockbusters.

On the other hand, in streaming, the story is quite different. Experimental films like Otsoga's Diaries find on platforms such as MUBI, Arte1 play, Sesc digital, Belas Artes à la carte, Looke, and even on the giants Netflix, HBO Max, Globoplay, Paramount and Prime Video the perfect channel not only to exist, but also to achieve the success that would hardly hug on the big screen.

Finally, the work of the couple Miguel Gomes and Maureen Fazendeiro takes the form of a deconstructed diary that reverses time (like 'August' in the title) and begins on the 22nd and ends on the XNUMXst. It is an experimental film constructed in real time, without a script (collectively argued), without a pre-established structure, which invites the spectator to participate in the assembly and combination of elements (both real and fictional).

In general terms, although the viewer may not be sure of the narrative or how the film will end, the work of Gomes e Fazendeiro is an evolutionary process that configures a work that can be interpreted in many ways and from different perspectives.

Albert Einstein once wrote, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that is at the cradle of true art and true science.” Undoubtedly, such a reflection can also be attributed to the work of the Portuguese couple, in addition to experimentation, theatricality and the technical-personal routine, Otsoga's Diaries it is an ode to time, and deserves to be appreciated and celebrated.

*Vanderlei Tenorio is a journalist and is studying geography at the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL).


Otsoga's Diaries
Portugal, 2021, 106 minutes.
Directed by: Miguel Gomes and Maureen Fazendeiro.
Screenplay: Mariana Ricardo, Miguel Gomes and Maureen Farmer.
Cast: Crista Alfaiate, Carloto Cotta, João Nunes Monteiro.

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