Set in modern-day Brazil, Medusa tells the story of 21-year-old Mariana (Mari Oliveira), who by day works to fit the idealised image of a Christian woman and by night takes part in a violent vigilante squad alongside her friends, hunting and beating those who stray from the Bible’s teachings. This status quo, brutal as it is, is disrupted when Mariana receives a scar during a hunt; this physical crack in her façade reveals metaphorical cracks in the system she is complicit in, and Mariana must reckon with what she has done and where she fits in the world.
Medusa is a film with its sights set on criticising religion as an institution, exploring the ways in which organised piety is used as a political tool to uphold bigotry such as misogyny and homophobia. These messages are explicit and unsubtle, but delivered in a way that gives the piece the clarity of purpose it needs. The script works well to weave these points seamlessly into the protagonists’ character arcs. Medusa has a lot of important things to say, and it is testament to the strong writing and directing that it manages to say them all without losing a scrap of narrative momentum.
The excellent writing is aided by fantastic cinematography and camerawork. With a runtime of around two hours, this is a long film, but the time is well spent, offering a gorgeous and diverse visual experience that disrupts the mundane and perfectly represents the tension lying in the underbelly of a society driven by religious fervour. Familiar settings are rendered haunting and unsettling, and even the most innocuous interactions are tinged with inherent violence.
The acting is great across the board too, and serves to enhance the script and cinematography. Oliveira does an excellent job at portraying the complex and messy Mariana, and Lara Tremoroux puts in a similarly impressive effort as Mariana’s friend Michele. Their complicated but compelling dynamic forms the backbone of the narrative, and the great chemistry between the two actresses works to bring the piece together. Thiago Fragoso is also brilliant as the sinister Pastor Guilherme, providing a perfect antagonistic counterpart for the leading ladies with his politically-tinged sermons.
Medusa is a visceral, raw story, representing many complex emotions and socio-political concepts over its two-hour runtime. It does so effectively and stylishly, leaving no narrative stone unturned despite the enormity of its task.
Medusa does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.