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Coração Negro: Broken embraces


- With her new film, in competition at IndieLisboa, Rosa Coutinho Cabral delivers a portrait of a couple in crisis, starring Maria Galhardo and João Cabral

Coração Negro: Broken embraces
Maria Galhardo and João Cabral in Coração Negro

A profound feeling of discomfort, a couple on the verge of splitting up and a house under construction, which will likely never become a home. These are the ingredients of the new film by Portuguese sociologist-turned-director Rosa Coutinho CabralCoração Negro [+see also:
film profile
(lit. Black Heart), which has surfaced 11 years after her last feature, Lavado em Lágrimas.

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Shot entirely in the Azores archipelago, Coração Negro stars Maria Galhardo and João Cabral as a nameless and childless couple trying to rebuild a house on Pico Island. At the same time, they are also trying to rebuild their relationship – although only the man seems to be putting any effort into it. They might live on a volcanic island, but their relationship is no longer aflame. The passion between them seems to have petered out; they still seem to have a few plans for the future, but they are discussed joylessly, without any strong convictions. Their lack of intimacy is clearly contrasted with the closeness of their friendly neighbouring couple and with the kindness of the local inhabitants. They are at an impasse, unable to close chapters in their lives and move forward.

However, there is nothing Bergmanian about Coração Negro. Instead of using a realistic approach depicting the reasons behind the decay, the film, written by the director and Tiago Melo Beto, prefers to explore the emptiness of the present through minimalistic dialogues that reveal nothing but dissatisfaction. In one of the couple’s attempts at communication, they play around with the association of ideas, a game that throws up words like “ruin”, “fear”, “choice”, “loss”, “nothing”, “death” and “emptiness”. All of this is set against the backdrop of the arid Azores landscape and its local folk parties, which also seem unable to excite the morose couple.

José Carlos Pontes co-edited the film and wrote its amazing original idea. Musically, it mainly includes slow piano compositions, which envelop the film in a deep, melancholic atmosphere, leading to an equally pessimistic ending.

Produced by Nocturno FilmesCoração Negro is part of the national competition of the IndieLisboa festival, which runs until 14 May in the Portuguese capital. The local theatrical distributor is yet to be announced.

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