Without context, Gabriel Mascaro’s Divine Love is a confusing journey into a dystopian Brazil. In context, the film is a sociopolitical commentary on the current state of affairs in the South American country. It provides an answer to a question many are asking; where are we headed? It visualizes a future in which a crossing of biology and politics play a greater role in influencing a whole society. Divine Love also highlights the issues in a society that is going through a sort of faith-based identity crisis. Finally, it wraps all of this up in a pretty, neon-illuminated package for us to see onscreen.
Divine Love isn’t the dystopian future you picture in your head when you think about the genre. Not much has changed in 2027 Brazil. Cars look the same, buildings look the same, and we still have dogs. The changes are subtle. Characters move in between spaces by going through government-issued scanners that track their every move. A couple’s divorce is finalized through a bureaucratic notary office that makes the final decisions for them. This is where our main character, Joana (Dira Paes), comes into play. Joana’s intersectionality of bureaucracy and worship unfolds in the manifestation of an erotic, Evangelical support group for couples that are considering divorce.
Throughout the film, Joana and her husband Danilo become increasingly frustrated by their inability to conceive a child. Joana desperately wants to become pregnant, but Danilo has exhausted all resources in making himself fertile. In this way the film challenges how audiences usually see images of the male body onscreen. In one scene, Danilo is seen getting an ultrasound on his sexual organs while Joana holds his hand from beside the hospital bed.
The most striking aspect of the film is in its use of color. Nearly every scene is illuminated in a hazy neon light. Images of a dark room being illuminated only by sunlight through a colored curtain come to mind. Other images, such as a scene where Joana drinks a glass of water in front of a glowing computer screen, light up the picture with a touch of neon. The film is consistently using light to portray a greater theme of illumination, as if something “else” is lighting Joana’s world and pushing the story.
The purpose of this imagery becomes clear when Mascaro takes the stage after the screening to discuss the film. The first comment is about the films statement on religion in Brazil, and the audience is presented with an alarming statistic. There are dozens of religious organizations popping up in Brazil nearly every day, many of which are Evangelical and Pentecostal. Divine Love, which is also the name of Joana’s erotic support group, is illuminated only by neon light and works under the guise of god as a way to help couples overcome challenges. Couples are permitted only to engage in intercourse while under the roof of the organization.
Divine Love is similar to a Murakami novel in how it unfolds before its audience. The dream-like story ebbs and flows throughout a rainbow of hazy light and eroticism. As a dystopian film, it’s a bit disappointing. However, as a commentary on socio political relations in Brazil it excels. The film makes striking comments about the new regimes to have come into power over the last few years and will become a vital piece of media in an age when art is a valuable source of free-speech. Divine Love is currently seeking a distributor.