27 octobre 2007
Two or Three Things I Know About Fontainhas: No Quarto da Vanda
Assorted thoughts on Pedro Costa's No Quarto da Vanda (In Vanda's Room):
The similarities to Godard's Two or Three Things I Know About Her are striking.
Costa, like Godard, spends a lot of time observing the physical infrastructure of the place, not as an existent reality, but as a process, laying bare the essential components of construction/destruction involved in the realization of physical structure. In these films, we mainly see the machines involved in these processes, revealing their impersonal, structural basis (as in: the structures of capitalist development). The negative effects of this 'development' are explored in greater depth in Colossal Youth.
One interesting architectural component of the neighborhood was the mixing of public and private space. The ad-hoc construction of the neighborhood's buildings created porous boundaries between these spaces; Vanda's room is separated, in lieu of a fourth wall, only by a blanket. The result is a community connected by more than location or history, but also by the everpresent publicness of even private space. [This architectural structuring of community is lost by the demolition of the neighborhood and the residents' re-placement in public housing. One flaw of the bourgeois individualism enforced by the government's housing policy is the forced loss of this intimate sense of community.] The fluid lines between inside and outside are especially present in Costa's sound design, which is nowhere near as 'realist' as it seems; much of the construction noise heard offscreen was recorded separately and added after the fact (Note: I recollect Costa saying this, but don't have this in my notes. If you can confirm or deny, please weigh in. Update: see comments). Costa emphasizes the liminality of space in part through this sound design, which lacks the dialectical opposition of Godard's Two or Three Things in favor of creating a porous boundary between interior and exterior. Costa's construction and emphasis of this porosity focuses our attention on the Fontainhas community being lost by the 'upgrades' given to their physical environment. This community is rooted in their shared familial-historical-linguisticultural-socio-economic situation, but also in the solidarity created by the physical facts of their liminal situation.
Costa's interest in doors/rooms/liminal spaces is just one extension of his interest in the mixture of public and private space. Streets, per Costa, "can be more secretive than houses." The residents feel connected to their homes, to their space - a connection lost by the time of Colossal Youth. The neighborhood itself is like a secret world, harder to see than to look at. Costa approaches this world like a student, seeing oppositions - Vanda and the women in one world, the boys in another - that both insiders and outsiders would miss. As someone who has integrated himself into the community, but who can never fully lose his 'outsider' status for reasons of education, socioeconomics and profession, Costa is uniquely positioned to see both forest and trees.
Costa shot for 2 years and spent another year editing the footage to make the film. The story developed over the course of shooting, based on things that happened (Costa: "I dont have ideas for films"). Then a scene would be performed once, though the first take was always, according to Costa, bad. A week later they would shoot the same scene again, and it would be funny, interesting. Costa never wrote anything down; it was instead a mental editing process, an effort at improving what had been done before. One scene details the reactions of Vanda and another character to the death of Geny, who lived in the neighborhood. The first take, shot on the day of the event, was too emotional, full of too many tears. The scene was shot many times, once every week or so. The take used in the film was shot 6 months after the event. (The take used was emotionally understated, and Vanda was unhappy with it; she preferred the more emotional first take.)
Costa is allowed these liberties because he has integrated himself into the community. The neighborhood is, in a way, his office, where he goes every day to work. Costa told us about his dream of starting a TV station in the neighborhood, one that caters to and produces content from Fontainhas itself. But the neighborhood itself is moving toward the point when it no longer exists (the end result of the 'development' we see in No Quarto da Vanda is the transplantation and resettlement so central to Colossal Youth). Costa hopes to "test this impossibility" of continuing to work in the neighborhood: "the main work, I think, is still to be done there for me."