Biweekly Binge: Quest for Art and Space - Júlia Murat’s Pendular
A fortnightly column on what’s good – old and new – in the vast ocean of content in the streaming platforms around you
Raquel Karro's Alice and Rodrigo Bolzan's unnamed character are artists with the most graceful of professions. The latter is a sculptor, having last presented his work about a year ago and is now working with large pieces of equipment and a host of junior colleagues. Alice is a dancer, using her body to explore spaces and objects, in a constant search for freedom and release. They share a workspace, a large warehouse where they also live. They share a life, as - husband and wife - though this is never mentioned explicitly. In the opening scene, they are doing the opposite of the nature of their respective vocations - they indulge in a graceless exercise of laying down an orange strip to separate the warehouse into two unequal parts, one side for the sculptor's work and another for Alice's choreography. The boundaries are drawn, and artistic capabilities limited.
Júlia Murat's Pendular, streaming on Mubi, explores the psyche of two artists who are troubled both professionally and personally. Murat divides the film into three literal parts, the first one is called Alice Arrives, the second one Impetus and the third one called Action. In the beginning, Alice and her partner are seemingly comfortable in their spaces, playing football with friends and the sculptor's apprentices, stealing a glance or two during work but slowly the open space begins to consume both. Even a private space like the bathroom is demarcated, the husband using the shower and talking about a childhood game he used to play on the mirror and Alice trying to recreate the game outside before joining him. They are always partitioned on screen. They are happy when they stick to their respective spaces and their physical union - from cuddles to sex - is healthy but mechanical. Alice becomes bothered by a nondescript cable running through the length of the warehouse only to end at a streetlight outside. It confounds her, the purpose of that cable and why it exists. Outsiders ask them why they chose to live in this large space of nothing and Alice has no answer.
The second part is Impetus, where Murat tries to unravel the process by which the couple lose their momentum in both personal space and workspace. The sculptor begins to encroach into Alice's part of the warehouse and more equipment for his work begins to fill the warehouse. He reveals to a critic friend that he has no idea what he is doing, and the clogged warehouse reflects his clogged mind. This, in turn, affects Alice, who finds better chemistry outside of her relationship but at the same time, finds herself boxed in by her husband and his yearning for space. It also manifests into him wanting to have a child while Alice not too enthused by the idea. Even their union is muddled with a kind of unpredictable frisson that pushes Alice further away from him. There are two shots that standout - one where Alice is taking a break and throws paper planes at the sculptor's side of the warehouse only for him to admonish her and another when her partner's equipment begins to invade her space, Alice is pushed to what looks like a corner with very little space to move, with little freedom to emote and express her feelings. The already rationed spoken lines in Pendular become further extinct.
Murat's mood piece is not humourless though. It draws you in to sympathize with the sculptor's creative bankruptcy and his dependence on Alice's free-spiritedness in variety of ways. A parable consisting of wasps and caterpillars is used to describe the couple's situation that leads to a delicious reference to Ridley Scott's Alien, a film that's famous for its defiant pro-choice narrative even as the couple can neither agree about their art nor about an offspring. The more they try to work together the further apart they are pulled. When we first see them exchanging ideas and communicating, it is outside of the warehouse, in open space with unknown people milling around them, far from the confines of their workspace with just the two of them in an endless galaxy.
Pendular is streaming on Mubi.