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The Horrors of Modern Life – Broken Down by Director Gregorio Graziosi in Ventana Sur Title ‘Tinnitus’

Tinnitus
Courtesy of Projeto Paradiso

Brazilian Gregorio Graziosi’s “Tinnitus” is co-written by Andrés Julian Vera and Marco Dutra, a Locarno best director winner for “Good Manners”; its DP is Rui Poças, whose credits include Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama” and upcoming “Tabu.”

Its score is from David Boulter, who played keyboard on Claire Denis’ “Bastards,” collaborated on the score of her “High Life.”

Such credentials will make, almost inevitably, for one of the most polished of entries at Copia Final, Ventana Sur’s pix-in-post competition, where it screens on-site at the Cinemark Puerto Madero on Wednesday.

Developed at the Cannes Festival’s Résidence, “Tinnitus” looks set to weigh in as high art in the service of what on paper may seem a classic sports comeback narrative involving Marina, a high-board synchronized diver, who suffers a serious diving accident caused by tinnitus. She is encouraged by her substitute Teresa, she stages a comeback, though still terrorized by a terrible buzzing in her ears.

But excerpts suggest it plays far more consistently as a psychological thriller layered by multi-level horror and punctuated by dead times developing characters’ emotions which owe a debt to Michelangelo Antonioni.

There’s one moment, for example,  in which Marina plunges with her partner in a series of dives silhouetted against a “giallo” red sky, as the modulated score teases out the scene’s dreamlike wonder and undercurrent of horror.

The awaited second feature of Graziosi, whose “Obra” established him as a talent to track, “Tinnitus” is produced by Zita Carvalhosa at Cinematográfica Superfilmes (“Alice’s House”) and Ivan Melo (“Body Electric”). Variety spoke to Graziosi just before “Tinnitus” screened at Ventana Sur’s pix-in-post Copia Final on Dec. 1.

In a what looks like a crucial scene in “Tinnitus,” Marina’s husband and doctor argues that she is far to return to diving, her life passion. As his patient, he of course maintains authority over her. Marina, however, refuses to be a victim. Could you comment?

When I was doing research for the script, I interviewed several doctors who demonstrated deep concerns and dedication to their patients through an obsessive search for the ideal dosage of a specific medication. This is crucial for the well-being of patients who suffer from incurable illnesses such as tinnitus. Professionally they’re doing their best to help, but when this behavior is dislocated to personal relationships, in addition to being really oppressive, it can be suffocating. Could a doctor, who knows the body of a patient so well, as a partner be unaware of their innermost feelings?

Our country is currently experiencing a conservative upswing. With a majority of men in politics and religious leaders telling people what to do and think. It was a great relief from this oppressive reality, to make a film about strong women, who fight for their desires and unconventional passions. It felt important to create an environment reigned by determined women of different ages. A conservative country, now depressed into an economic and moral crisis, more than ever needs female symbols.

Sonia, her trainer, is a very interesting character. She is not limited by age or political regime. A guiding star to follow. Marina has a wild, impulsive nature. Far from her dreams, she lives incomplete and could never be happy. Rebelling is a matter of survival. That’s the scenario where our protagonist, who embodies a twisted sense of heroism, has to sacrifice herself in order to reconnect with her most personal values and beliefs. Rather than behaving as society expects.

From what I’ve seen, “Tinnitus” weighs in as a genre bender and blender, a sports film which works far more consistently as a horror drama, of a protagonist terrorized by a monster which only she can hear: Tinnitus. Again, could you comment?

At first sight Tinnitus sounds like a sports movie. But it’s a strange one, with a dreamlike pace and an oneiric scenario. Just like a boxing movie, there’s a fight against our greatest enemy, the one who lives inside ourselves.

Initially, it seemed very interesting to me that someone who depends on total control of their body, a diving athlete, standing on the edge of a platform, 10 meters above the water, could put her life at risk, stricken by a sudden evil that could attack without warning. Tinnitus can be part of someone’s process of hearing loss. It can be exacerbated by emotional causes. It’s a lonely disease. Those who suffer from It tend to hide it. It manifests differently in each one. It usually causes incomprehension and strangeness to those around. That’s why support groups are so important.

I had the guidance of one of the greatest experts on the subject, Doctor Tanit Ganz Sanchez. I was very impressed with the reports described by her patients. In extreme situations. Crises can be violent and absolutely disturbing. This idea frightened me. There was no way to escape an approximation to genre. In a way it’s like the terror is hiding inside you. There is the constant fear that after a strong crisis, tinnitus will come back, unannounced. You never know when it’s going to attack you again.

Looking towards the causes of Marina’s illness, they seem linked to the fear of failure in high-performance sports and also the pressure of big city life. But is that right?

Our bodies, immersed in noisy cities such as São Paulo, have been increasingly affected by mysterious diseases. This is the case of Marina, a diving athlete whose body and life have been transformed by an illness that deeply terrifies her. Unfortunately, under the management of our fascist government, prosaic activities such as listening to the Brazilian anthem, representing Brazil in official events or wearing our iconic green and yellow colors have started to cause panic and anxiety attacks in those who oppose the values of the ones in power.

During my script writing at Cinefondation Residence, I had the opportunity to attend a masterclass with the Japanese director Naomi Kawase. She said that she was constantly attracted by the wind sounds of the forest in her hometown. This idea is very beautiful to visualize. It truly brings relief to mind. São Paulo is one of the noisiest cities in the world, surrounded by thousands of buildings and sound pollution, there is no way to escape. If you have a condition of stress or mental disturbance, rather than relief, it’s sure that it will be aggravated.

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Tinnitus Courtesy of Projeto Paradiso