"Suely in the Sky" Love for Sale By Daniel Rafaelic
Although it may have seemed for a while that Karim Ainouz wouldn’t have been able to surpass the importance of his 2002 film Madame Satã, this year’s 8th International Film Festival of Bratislava gave us the opportunity to enjoy his latest achievement, the wonderful Suely in the Sky (O Céu de Suely). This Brazilian-French-German-Portuguese film, premiered at the Venice Film Festival, really distanced itself from all of the other films in the Bratislava competition. The selection of this year’s festival was pretty gloomy: mud, dark rooms, factory chimneys, mafia, murders, self destruction, pointless pursuit of happiness… in a word, depressing. So when in the first shot of Suely in the Sky one sees the rich and intense colors, the sun and the sea, one feels immediately better. Only, the film is anything but a feel-good movie.
The story begins with Hermila, a young and beautiful mother, who returns to her home town to wait for the arrival of the father of her baby. Living with her grandmother and aunt, she realizes that the father will not come at all, and knows she must flee the town before becoming the same as all the other town’s folk. Rich spirited as she is, she sells raffle tickets, as a way of earning the needed money for her departure. Soon she starts to use her charm and wonderful body to sell even more…
It is really refreshing to see a Brazilian film dealing with an impoverished society that is not set in a favela. Yet it gives the characters the chance to get away. It is up to them to use that chance — or not. The leading actress Hermila Guedes, who was rightly awarded the best actress prize, is quite a discovery. As actress she uses all of her natural charm and beauty to enrich her performance. And the fact that she is beautiful doesn’t prevent her from giving a wonderful performance. The story of the film is centered on her. She is in almost every shot. The story itself is very cleverly presented. You are drawn immediately into the world of Hermila — sympathizing with her from the beginning. But, as in many good films, the plot plays with our perceptions of her. Namely — what does one think when Hermila becomes a prostitute called Suely? Is she still the heroine?
Handheld cameras, grainy photography, lots of close-ups and several breathtaking long shots are constantly showing us the way director manipulates us — the audience (and the jury) to immediately sympathies with Hermila. But, the character of Hermila is in no way black or white. She has depth, she’s full of various emotions especially shown in the scene where she and her friend are singing at the fair. Hermila’s relationship with a local biker, João, who has obviously been in love with her for a long time, is portrayed with so much warmth, so much pure emotion, that their sex really becomes the culmination of their relationship — the culmination of everything pure that Hermila will ever experience.
The decline of a young woman who tries hard to stay happy in her life while attempting to provide the maximum for her son is really impressive. Suely in the Sky clearly shows that one doesn’t have to look far for a masterpiece. I wait eagerly for the next film by Karim Ainouz.