Netflix’s Oscar-worthy masterpiece you probably haven’t seen

“Pieces of a Woman”, the first film in English by the Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, starts from a carefully studied sequence shot with lines shot in cold blood – and the most contradictory ( and genius) is that nothing is accidental; everything that is said in the plot, especially in the first 25 minutes, has a special reason for being. The only difference is that here we witness the most unique and fundamental moments in a couple’s life, accompanied by another woman, three actors who fill a wealth of emotions. Contemporary cinema seems to have rediscovered the long shot, a technical-narrative resource where the spectator has the feeling of being drawn into the scene, regardless of his will. Productions from the 1970s and 1980s, such as “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974), directed by John Cassavettes (1929-1989), and “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986), by Woody Allen, serve as a kind of vortex whose centripetal force, enormous and unimaginable given the lightness just suggested by their respective plots, sucks the audience in, just like in cartoons. In common, more than the intrusion of the camera into the lives of those who watch, the films of Cassavettes and Allen – and now Mundruczó – make use of many people in the same frame, dialogues that are fired like projectiles of a machine gun at the public and the confusion intentional discourse, who present themselves in a certain way but want to convey a diametrically opposite idea.

These moments are the most significant in the life of Martha Weiss, embodied with total dedication by Vanessa Kirby, and her husband, Sean, played by Shia LaBeouf, but it will soon become clear that they will not be the happiest – despite they must be , in life with respect for men’s logic. Martha gives birth to their daughter, Yvette, at home, assisted by Molly Parker’s midwife Eva, sent in to replace the obstetrician, who had a last-minute appointment. The three move on a painful tour of the living room, bedroom and bathroom, saying the incoherent things that are said in similar circumstances, Martha more than the other two, probably because of the pain. Appreciating her husband’s beauty – a master script, since the main character is at the height of her femininity and at the same time completely vulnerable to him -, asks a question about the next steps of the procedure, complains of physical discomfort, howls. The intervals between one contraction and another become shorter and shorter, the water breaks, the baby’s heartbeat accelerates, the baby is taken from the mother’s womb. Martha can barely smell her daughter’s scent, and Eva notices that something is wrong. The newborn does not act like one who will soon have to deal with the harshness of the world, does not cry, does not kick. The doula examines her: Yvette is dead, and with her the little family and the love between Martha and Sean begin to die.

Martha, in addition to facing the biggest drama of her life, must face the mother, Elizabeth, of the veteran Ellen Burstyn, her true executioner. Elizabeth was born in the midst of Nazi barbarism, while her parents were still trying to emigrate to the United States, fleeing Adolf Hitler’s (1889-1945) murderous persecution of the Jews, which led to the Holocaust, the largest genocide in history. . It doesn’t take long for it to be implied that Elizabeth blames Martha herself for the failure of Yvette’s birth, highlighting the toxic relationship that the two have had for a long time. There is no sisterhood possible in Mundruczó’s drama: the first time they meet after the tragedy in the cemetery and order the girl’s tombstone, the grieving mother argues with her husband about the spelling of the child’s name. Sean prefers not to continue the argument, but it is precisely Elizabeth who pulls the trigger and agrees with her son-in-law. Some time later, at a dinner at Elizabeth’s house, this time with Martha’s sister Anita, character played by comedian Iliza Shlesinger, and other relatives and friends, the hostess suggests that she intends to pay Sean to leave her daughter, which it wouldn’t be all bad. In search of legal guidance in order to bring a possible lawsuit against the midwife – an initiative that the alleged main interested party had discarded from the beginning – Martha’s husband looks for Suzanne, the cousin lawyer, played by Sarah Snook. Taking advantage of the woman’s rejection, Sean allows himself to be seduced by Suzanne, who he declares himself to be during the meeting at Elizabeth’s house. Balancing between the will to succumb to madness and resistance and looking for any reason to move forward, Martha disintegrates to the point where she doesn’t even cultivate anything human anymore. He becomes a somewhat transcendental being, like a ghost, orbiting the matter that composed him, longing to return to that body, an impression that the audience notices only thanks to Kirby’s amazing talent. However, the self-preservation instinct speaks louder.

The metaphor of the apple, a Judeo-Christian symbol that evokes temptation, the fascination of evil, but also the hunger for self-knowledge, for wisdom – in addition to love and fertility, these two surely the most desired by her – is used lyrically by Mundruczó, which from then on begins to build a sublime allegory. As reborn from the hell of death, Martha has enlightenment and immerses herself in themes related to gardening and domestic fruit tree cultivation. Eager to recover from the shock and leave behind some of her trauma, she pulls the seeds out of the fruit and causes them to sprout, each in its own space, as in a nursery. In the light of the biblical “Genesis” reread, in which Martha incarnates Eve, the first woman of creation, pity for the world, obtains her daughter at the cost of pain and sacrifice, loses her to death and is finally readmitted to the Garden of Eden, the director tells about the resilience of its protagonist, who overcomes his tragedy as far as possible. The final sequence crowns the epic nature of the story: Martha Weiss is one of the most poignant portraits of a character in her mental state, a broken woman who little by little rebuilds herself, trusting in the cursed beauty of life, the rough. mother, but zealous, who not infrequently imposes on us a punishment much greater than our faults, but always promises a promise of happiness.

Movie: Pieces of a woman
Direction: Kornél Mundruczó
Year: 2020
Sex: drama
Note: 10

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