[Brooklyn Film Festival] WELCOME, VIOLETA! Review - A Writer’s Retreat and Journey of Self-Discovery
Breanna Lucci says Welcome, Violeta! forces us to explore abusive authority and the intricacies of an author’s mind.
Brazilian director Fernando Fraiha’s second feature film, Welcome, Violeta! (2022) is a slow-burn psychological thriller starring Debora Falabella and Dario Grandinetti. It follows Ana (Falabella) to a literary retreat nestled inside the breathtaking Andes mountains. Ines Bortagaray and Fraiha have crafted an intriguing tale focused on abusive authority and the intricacies of an author’s mind.
Ana struggles with writer’s block as she tries to craft her next novel, Violeta. To overcome this, she travels to a well-known retreat hosted by a charismatic and egotistical leader, Holden (Grandinetti). Holden has developed a method of helping writers to abandon their identities and assume the essence of their characters. The line between fiction and reality blurs as Ana embodies Violeta.
Mario Franca and Gustavo Hadba’s cinematography evokes feelings of chaos. Holden uses a handheld camera at the retreat. The camera feels like a class member. Franca and Hadba cleverly tell the story by shifting between Holden’s camera lens and standard shots. This technique provides a found footage element, leaving viewers isolated and unnerved.
Miriam Biderman’s score finds ways to further this experience. She plays a game of opposites. When something mundane occurs on screen, a slow, profound rhythmic hymn plays in the background, making us believe something terrible is lurking out of view. The music becomes upbeat and cheerful when an action occurs. There are also moments of stillness. Only pens scratching against paper can be heard.
The writing by Bortagaray and Fraiha is enthralling. As a writer myself, a film about writers resonates with me. Holden delivers the line, “Is it possible that an author is imprisoned in the same question all his life? Trapped in the same storm?” and I think that rhetorical question speaks directly to what this film explores. We experience the struggles of these writers, specifically Ana, in trying to distinguish herself from her characters. This is met with another thought-provoking concept: we can only write what we know. So, how can we write anything but ourselves? Ana and I seemed to find this conclusion simultaneously, and it was satisfying to see Violeta take over from there.
Likewise, Holden’s character represents how power and abuse can coincide. Fraiha wrote that he experienced a mentor like Holden, who sold “finding your inner truth” to manipulate and torment others. It’s a unique concept, one that serves this storyline well.
Falabella’s performance is fascinating. Without much dialogue, both Ana and Violeta’s personalities shine through. Ana’s fragility and cowardice contrast beautifully with Violeta’s aggression and selfishness. While interacting with Grandinetti, Falabella’s portrayal makes precise shifts, catapulting her storyline and character development forward. Grandinetti allows Holden to descend into a less apparent madness. Their ability to play off each other gives the film life, making way for an equally unsettling and satisfying ending.
The pacing might be my only critique. Most of the film floods with silence, where the suspense builds through mundane things like a pen attacking paper or a nosebleed. I had difficulty finding my footing within the plot with an excess of time spent building the suspense, which is lost while waiting.
There is a lot to admire in Welcome, Violeta! I appreciate the thought, energy, and intention put forth by Fraiha. Sometimes, finding your inner truth can help you discover who you are, and at others, it can lead to devastating consequences.
Welcome, Violeta! premiered at the 2022 Brooklyn Film Festival on June 4, 2022.