Why are we so afraid of the dark? Is it the fear of the unknown? What might be lurking in the shadows or are our imaginations too powerful for their own good? Mariphasa uses darkness as one of its main characters to create a world of confusion and anxiety.
After losing his daughter in a horrific car accident, Paulo (António Júlio Duarte) spends his time as a night watchman in a warehouse and lives with his lover, Luísa (Isabel Abreu), and her toddler son. The mute protagonist lives on tender hooks: riddled with anxiety, haunted by puzzling dreams and wary of his neighbour, Felipe (Albano Jerónimo), who hunts for city animals and abuses his dog.
Writer and director Sandro Aguilar takes a risk by abandoning dialogue as a means to create and propel a conventional narrative. The conversations are mostly functional and superfluous and add very little to the proceedings. The film feeds one vital line of dialogue that reveals the loss of Paulo’s daughter, which acts as a lighthouse in the obscurity, contextualising the action dramatically. Light and shadow reveal clues, faces and locations. Spatial and temporal arranging are fluid and shifting, never quite allowing the audience to get their bearings.
Mariphasa takes place in a world of derelict warehouses, claustrophobic dwellings where the main source of light is harsh and electric, painting the surroundings a sickly orange. The immersive sound design amplifies the taut atmosphere treating our ears to a symphony of industrial and mysterious sounds. The director offers these aural clues as a means to locate oneself in the ambiguous surroundings. This constantly shifting environment creates a palpable window into Paulo’s point-of-view, blurring the lines between reality and his dreams and flashbacks.
This experiment, at times, tests the limits of patience, offering few entry points. Marpihasa is an enticing, cinematic experiment that boldly explores new ways of storytelling.
Mariphasa does not have a UK release date yet.
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