I like it when a film slowly seems to get a hold of itself before your very eyes. Like it’s getting smarter as it goes along. That’s how I felt watching this depiction of a huge hospital complex in Rio de Janeiro which has half of the building functioning and the other half lying almost in ruins.
The film is sort of clumsy to begin with. We follow a patient being pushed in a bed in the working part of the hospital and we see graphic pictures of the ruin. Then we follow a gastroscopy of the woman which – as something of a banality – is intercut with handheld shots from the cellar of the hospital with pibes, rubble and rats. Ok, one thinks, we get it: The hospital itself is also a patient.
But slowly the film opens up. Pictures of the building play a huge part throughout but we also see and hear people from various institutions talking either directly to us from behind a desk or walking around in the quite amazing construction. It can be the hospital director, an engineer, an architect – even a patient – all people who have genuine interest or feelings for the whole monstrosity. HU refers to its status as a University Hospital and it was part of the modernist, architect movement in 1950’s. But it was built way too big, and the unused part of the building is referred to as the “lame leg” and is just that: A dead counterpart to the “good leg”.
Split screen and camera movements are used with various effect and luck, but I get the feeling that it all seems to work better and better as the films progresses. Also, wonderful little stories appear like the one with a woman carrying an empty plant pot and who needs help to get out of a door. She wants to get one of the ferns growing wildly in the ruin right outside. It’s told from a distance and is just a beautiful documentary scene with reminiscence of Jacques Tati.
The graphic pictures are accompanied by industrial sounding “music” which also seem a bit trite to begin with but it all prove to be worthwhile in the end. For us and for the filmmakers in a way I won’t reveal here. I’m built up to amazement and content in a strangely satisfying way.