The Metamorphosis of Birds is now showing in selected cinemas nationwide.
The worlds of documentary and fiction come crashing together in Catarina Vasconcelos’ first feature-length film, The Metamorphosis of Birds. Love and loss may be two themes that are used so often they verge on becoming meaningless buzzwords, but this format-bending tale manages to find a wholly fresh take on both.
Impeccably framed and shot, Vasconcelos’ tale spans decades, telling a moving story of a family kept apart by duty yet always connected by a deep love. The film explores its themes through constant dialogue and poetic imagery based on the director’s own life. Here unbelievably gorgeous 16MM cinematography means that the imagery enthrals even those who may lose patience with the pacing.
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This approach is daunting at first, and at times, the film’s momentum wanes. After all, there is only so much talking a brain can handle before losing track of what’s actually being said. However, the pace and poetry of the film linger in the viewer’s mind long after the credits have rolled. Here the recurring images of the vast sea point towards the literal vastness of the space between family members and the cruel infinity of time itself, the greatest separator of all. While at the same time, the beauty of the natural world provides many of the film’s most stunning shots, from flitting sunlight to the changing of the seasons and the death and funeral of a bird – all of the stages of life are represented.
It begins with grandfather Henrique describing the loss of his wife to a stroke. He was a sailor and missed many family milestones such as birthdays due to his time at sea. As the narrative continues, more family members join with their recollections, from Beatriz to Jacinto, the director’s father. Nothing about this particular family is so extraordinary as to warrant an entire motion picture. Yet, their combined storytelling is unique enough to justify the long journey to meet every member.
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There’s a genuinely beguiling quality to Vasconcelos’ picture, particularly in how it tackles the horrid reality of losing your parents one day. The finale features a segment in which a dream conversation with a deceased loved one is especially heartbreaking, as the narrator ponders what their loved one would have thought of modern miracles such as Google. These moments are universal in their concerns yet tackled with a noble grace that prevents the film from becoming morbid or depressing.
The Metamorphosis of Birds can be a tough watch at times, relaxed to the point of feeling occasionally aimless. However, as an exploration of generational loss, it’s fascinatingly presented, excellently showcasing Vasconcelos’ unique worldview and creative voice. Hopefully, her next film will find a more consistently gripping pace, but for now, The Metamorphosis of Birds will do as an excellent calling card for a promising new voice.
The Metamorphosis of Birds can be a tough watch at times, relaxed to the point of feeling occasionally aimless. However, as an exploration of generational loss, it’s fascinatingly presented, excellently showcasing Vasconcelos’ unique worldview and creative voice.