The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão

(A Vida Invisível)

Official Selection from Brazil for the Best International Film Oscar!

Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz knows full well that melodramas don’t just get by on sympathy – they need our anger as well. In his stirring, heart-wrenching period film The Invisible Life Of Eurídice Gusmão, adapted from a novel by Martha Batalha, he manages the meld with finesse.
Sisters Eurídice (Carol Duarte) and Guida (Julia Stockler) are first established as likeable free spirits in the masculine world of 1950s Brazil, until that culture, subtly or unsubtly, crushes their dreams and keeps them apart. By the time veteran Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro is introduced in an affecting turn as the elderly Eurídice at the end of the film, the audience isn’t just tearing up, it’s fired up as well.  

Poster for the Brazilian melodrama The Invisible Life Of Eurídice GusmãoAged 18 and 20 when the film begins in 1950, Eurídice and Guida are as close as sisters can be, living in a cramped Rio house they share with their controlling father and submissive mother. A talented pianist, Eurídice dreams of studying at the conservatory in Vienna; she’s an intriguing mix of self-doubt and wilfullness, passivity and power. Her older sister Guida has all the self-confidence that Eurídice lacks. A headstrong, live-wire party girl, she will soon elope to Athens with her Greek sailor lover.

And as far as Eurídice knows, that’s where Guida stays. In reality, after discovering her mariner beau to be a scoundrel, the pregnant Guida comes back to Rio before the year is out. She is equally deceived about Eurídice’s whereabouts, thanks to a cruel lie told by her father, who spurns her. Two sisters, living in the same sprawling city, each desperate to find the other, while assuming the other is somewhere on the other side of the ocean. It may be a corny premise, but it’s also a highly effective foundation for a story which is all about how women’s desires, dreams and even identities are erased in a male-dominated society.

With a voiceover derived from never-delivered letters between Guida and Eurídice, the film charts two difficult but resilient female lives. The film’s buzzy Rio setting, vibrant colour palette, warm camerawork and rhapsodic classical music together act as a tantalizing reminder of the self-expression the two sisters should rightly have achieved. But they are also a tribute to their irrepressible spirit, and psychic bond.

– Lee Marshall, Screen Daily


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