Writer-director Iuli Gerbase’s feature-length debut, the eerily prescient Brazilian sci-fi drama The Pink Cloud, marks the arrival of a major talent. The minimalist film offers an intoxicating blend of despondent allegory and accurate study of humanity’s deterioration when faced with total isolation. It’s one of the best pandemic-themed films of the COVID era… only it began production a year before the virus overtook our lives. Corona was just a beer you drank with a slice of lime back then.
Out of nowhere, pink clouds appear over cities. People die within 10 seconds if exposed, so a worldwide lockdown is enforced. Giovana (Renata de Lélis) finds herself stuck with her one-night-stand, Yago (Eduardo Mendonça). After contacting their loved ones, the couple engages in copious coitus, their naked bodies flushed against pink skies. Unfortunately, the clouds aren’t going anywhere. Folks get used to them, thanking them (“There’s no more car crashes”) and watch TV shows based around the clouds.
Giovana and Yago gradually start to resemble a married couple. Disagreements surface. He wants two children, while she wants none. She’s paranoid, and he’s apathetic. “Why do you suffer for things you cannot change?” Yago asks. A pregnancy and an at-home, do-it-yourself birth follows. Their son grows older. Giovana and Yago roleplay to spice up their stagnating relationship. When that doesn’t work, they separate, each on their own floor, sharing screwy custody of their child. Life becomes virtual for Giovana – she even recreates a beach environment for her VR set, pouring sand all over the floor.
“…a worldwide lockdown is enforced. Giovana finds herself stuck with her one-night-stand…”
Tantalizing mysteries arise throughout The Pink Cloud. Why don’t the clouds seep through the cracks in the doorways and windows? If they don’t bleed through cracks, why can’t folks venture out in hazmat suits? What is up with that prune-colored juice that everyone consumes? Why hasn’t the government announced the number of deaths on television or the radio yet? Is the cloud a celestial punishment, a government-level mishap, a natural occurrence, or Mother Nature striking back at humanity?
The film realistically depicts the mounting terror and claustrophobia of being indefinitely quarantined. It gets the details right, from calling your loved ones upon hearing the news to taking care of your family or friends when delivery services are down. Gerbase knows how to shock without resorting to cheap tactics; Giovana witnessing a suicide is portrayed in a quiet, matter-of-fact fashion, which makes it all the more horrific.
Bathed in hues of pastel-pink, The Pink Cloud resonates deeply. An unnerving vibe permeates the narrative. Gerbase studies how loneliness brings out the worst, and sometimes the best, in us. She examines how some of us are more adaptable than others; how we are the products of our environment, creatures of habit. The film can also be viewed as a parable about autocracy, ruthlessly dissecting the abide-or-die mentality. Whatever you take from it, the drama is bound to hover over you for days.
"…an unnerving vibe permeates the narrative."