These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: #35(Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica)
Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica is a Brazilian movie by writer-director Marcelo Gomes that tells the story about a woman who lives in a Brazilian city with her sick elderly father Jose, whom she adores to the point that she doesn’t really want comit to any guy n thus leave her father (Father: Are you thinking about Gustav? Veronika: No, I am thinking how happy I am to be at home with you). Veronica(Hermila Guedes) is undergoing a crucial time in her life, a period full of doubts: about her professional choice, her most intimate bonding and her ability to cope with the adult life that lies ahead. Once Upon a Time was I, Veronica is a fairy-tale in reverse. There are no fairy godmothers, no weddings, no dreams. It is a story that reveals itself through adventures, misfortunes, desires and songs.
Veronica works in the psych department of a public hospital, and spends most of her days listening to accounts of her of her patients’ mental problems. Her encounters with the patients are very interesting, they come to her with complex psychological problems, A boy suffering from Catatonic Schizophrenia doesn’t respond to anything around, he’s almost like a living mummy,another lady suffers from inexplicable lethargy, despite having fairly good things in life she just can’t get herself out of bed. Veronica feels she is not really able to help her patients but apparently she is very popular with them.
But Veronica’s trickiest patient is herself: she conducts daily sessions in which she examines her motives and neuroses, speaking into a dictaphone. (I, patient Veronica, uncertain about life like everyone else. I, patient Veronica, scared about future like everybody else. I, patient Veronica, in a crisis. I patient Veronica, not knowing what to do with the sense of loss invading my soul).Veronica is a believably complex and intelligent protagonist, facing up to and articulating universal insecurities in a world of increasingly challenging turbulence. Veronica is undergoing an existential crisis or to put it a little mildly, Quarter Life Crisis. At times she tries to escape the angst by indulging in excessive sex, partying n such but the inner turmoil doesn’t fade. Escape or avoidance is never the solution, only facing it squarely is. Veronica finally realizes through intense introspection that she’s “sick of suffering” and “trying to dream more about life.”
The movie proceeds at a laconic pace, no action taking place. I really liked the scene when Veronica & Gustavo meet to break up after Veronica indulges in sex with a random stranger at the Carnival. They don’t fight, they don’t shout, they don’t get overly emotional. The imminent breakup is conveyed through silence, both of them sitting n looking in different directions.
I had to love the movie ‘cos I love all movies/books/songs/even paintings which give us a sneak peak into the character’s mind. & surely Veronica has a very rich inner life. Lot more goes on inside her head as faces her external n internal demons. My interest was piqued by the title of the movie n the protagonist’s name ‘cos ‘Veronika Decides to Die’ by Paulo Coelho also happens to be among my favorite books. Both Veronikas haven’t disappointed me n gave me fertile ground to grow my own thoughts.
The Film has been showcased at & received accolades at several Film Festivals.
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