The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - THE FEVER | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - THE FEVER

the fever review
A dock worker succumbs to a mysterious fever as a strange animal stalks his neighbourhood.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Maya Da-Rin

Starring: Regis Myrupu, Suzy Lopes, Lourinelson Vladmir, Rosa Peixoto

the fever poster

Bang in the middle of the Amazon, Manaus is the largest urban development in northern Brazil. The link between commerce and the natural environs of Manaus were forged in the late nineteenth century, with the ‘Rubber Boom’. This was an economic prosperity which related to the extraction and sale of rubber from Hevea brasiliensis, a species of tree native to the rainforest. The boom caused mass European colonisation in Manaus: attracting immigrant workers, causing cultural and social makeovers, and inflicting mayhem upon indigenous societies. And then, after enterprising arborists developed a way of nurturing and subsequently smuggling seeds to southeast Asia, it all went to shit. From rubber boom to economic erasure almost overnight, without its USP Manaus fell into depression. In the 1960s, however, attempts were made to bounce back, with the introduction of the Manaus free trade zone in 1967 attracting business by granting tax incentives. During this period, Manaus underwent demographic growth to become one of the most overpopulated cities in Brazil. Today, 17% of the Amazonas state’s people live below the poverty line.

the fever review

Maya Da-Rin’s (director and sharing writing duties with Pedro Cesarino and Miguel Seabra Lopes) The Fever picks up with one of Manuas’ citizens, the 45 year old (ancient within the situation of the Brazilian poor’s lower life expectancy) security guard Justino (Regis Myrupu - beguilingly inscrutable). Inextricably linked to the city’s industrial milieu via his job as a security guard at the docks, Justino watches day in and out as cranes lift and drop shipping containers throughout his long shifts. There is low level chat with other workers, but essentially the aged Justino keeps his head down and ekes out his day. After all, there is no employment protection available to Justino’s role, and plenty of others who would eagerly take his job. Night times are spent in his shotgun shack, some way away from the presumably gentrified water fronts. It is a humble life, one that is without any discernible joy, but also a course that seems straightforward and relatively unchallenging: an existence as mundane as it is typical within the colonised, capitalist contexts of Manaus.

Justino’s daughter announces her intention to move to Brasilia to study medicine, and this causes our central character to contract some sort of fever (although completed in 2019, the threat of infection in 2021 Brazil has urgent connotations...). Could this fever be a psychosomatic response to his daughter’s flight? In the same way that the strange animal which reportedly stalks the city streets at night is a very obvious tulpa conjured by post-industrial malaise?

the fever review

Although this is Da-Rin’s first narrative feature, she is a veteran of documentary cinema and boy does it show. The acting is beyond naturalism, affecting a verisimilitude which seems almost intimate (Myrupu won Best Actor at the Locarno Festival). It is as if we are actually observing these humble people knocking about their business, with them completely unaware of us stroking our chins and contemplating how tough life must be for them.

I have conflicted responses to this sort of film: on the one hand, narratives which promote new stories, and which centre on the voiceless is generally a good and welcome thing. But at the same time, there is the occasional sense that the marginalised can be objectified in this type of cinematic study, which only observes from a polite distance, representing the indigent for the edification of those who at the very least can afford a cinema ticket or the technology to consume the entertainment product made about this ‘other’. I dunno. It rests uneasily.

the fever review

There is certainly a deliberate lack of expansion of Justino’s situation: at one point, his brother visits and has a pop at Justino for ‘turning white’. There is no apparent reason for this fraternal jibing as Justino is almost completely passive throughout, displaying very little extra-indigenous affectations, or, indeed, much of a personality at all. The inclusion simplistically reads as a concession to colonialism.

In this spirit, The Fever touches upon a variety of topics which are worthy of cinematic discourse: identity, cultural erasure, the environment, the crushing death knell of post-industrial capitalism and imaginary monsters in the woods. However, the film evades an exploration of these concepts, and only presents them. There is an imperial stillness to the tempo and style of Da-Rin’s which some may respond to and welcome for a change of pace, but, if I’m being completely honest, I couldn’t wait for this fever to break.

The Fever is in UK cinemas from August 6th.

2021 movie reviews