Hovering Over the Water

Hovering Over the Water ★★★★½

A large part of what makes A Flor do Mar feel so special is the unique realm in which it establishes itself as a film. Spatially, the tight feeling of the house, with its huge gates and walls and rooms shot often from one angle, contrasts with the wide open sea. Further, you have the loneliness and sense of isolation that comes with the main characters interrupted often, by new people coming in and even the characters going on excursions out. This is a complete contradiction, and the film finds itself evoking a couple different things at once. This peculiarity is heightened even more by the near timelessness of it all. It is grand and sweeping and would seem timeless, except that all throughout the background is the story of the assassination moving along. These events, perhaps political in nature, while not denoting any existing time (that I know of) certainly seem to set the film ambiguously in a specific time.

Then there is the feeling of the film. There are wisps of memories, dreams, hopes and longings, constantly passing through, and yet it refuses to settle only in the dreamlike. This is best established right near the beginning when Laura and Sara are speaking outside at night. The conversation contains stories from the past, descriptions of dreams, reflections on the present, and the present itself, events occurring throughout their talking. The film presents them all in a fractured and mixed fashion that serves to both heighten the atmosphere and create a tangible history, a concrete past and present. The film similarly becomes some combination of all these, falling not into any of them in particular, but decidedly somewhere in a crack in between. In contrast to the strange atmosphere created by such mixture is the flow of events, the unfolding of the film, which feels entirely natural. There are long stretches of simple interactions, or, for example, the takes of Laura driving, where it is clear the film is content with just breathing, not concerned at all with the story going on. And then men with guns will show up and many things will happen very quickly. So despite there being no apparent concern for the story, things do still happen, exciting things even, and this helps the film feel neither forcibly propelled forwards nor deliberately slowed down. The contradictory form of the film's atmosphere is pulled in only another direction by this plotting, and so the film, with these and the spatial contradictions mentioned above, enters a realm that seems to exist in multiple places simultaneously, one that is quite enrapturing and which allows it the space and freedom to carefully explore its own intimate ideas.

The film begins with a shot of a ship sailing in, and a dinner scene with the family shortly follows. As the movie approaches its ending, there is another dinner scene, and finally a shot of the ship sailing back out. These scenes don't seem to suggest anything cyclical or circular, but are instead simply a recapitulation signifying the end of a a movement. It leaves questions of what it all meant; the characters too are wondering - did it help or hurt emotionally, how will it add to the already established depth of memories that fill that house? And there is plenty enough for us as viewers to continue to chew on in reflection, but for us the story is over. In the span of just a movie we have experienced an entire chapter of a few lives. Not only is this impressive, but the way it ends with the house lights slowly fading and being swallowed up by the night sky is very moving in its finality (though of course we can imagine they will brighten again the next day). Lara said in that beginning conversation "it reminds what it reminds". In the moment it was unclear what this could mean, but it ends up being reflected in the film as a whole. The events will affect the people however they will, we as viewers will be left with whatever feelings we will, but more importantly, when taken in total, the film - like any moment or memory - is an entity that began and finished itself, and A Flor do Mar finds immense beauty in that simplicity and completeness, beyond just that which it happens to remind.