VOD film review: The Fever (A Febre)
Bianca Garner | On 08, Aug 2021
Director: Maya Werneck Da-Rin
Cast: Regis Myrupu, Rosa Peixoto, Johnatan Sodré, Emildo M Vaz Pimentel
Where to watch The Fever online in the UK: BFI Player / Curzon Home Cinema
Cutting one’s self off from the natural world to hide in sprawling urban landscapes can lead anyone to forget what’s truly meaningful in life. Maya Da-Rin’s debut film, The Fever, explores the inner conflict of humanity’s desire to be both part of the modern urban world and also hold on to the past world full of nature, belief and spirituality. A slow-burner of a film, The Fever doesn’t exactly wow upon first viewing, but its themes and eerie atmosphere have a way of burrowing into your mind. So much so that, hours later, you are left churning over thoughts about what it all meant. Very few films manage to leave such a lasting impression.
Justino (Regis Myrupu) is a 45-year-old Desana native living in the Brazilian city of Manaus. He has a simple existence, working as a security guard at a container port. We find out that his wife has passed away and that his daughter, Vanessa (Rosa Peixoto), is his main source of company. His son has moved out and has his own family, regarding his father as a burden of sorts.
Vanessa works in the local health clinic, where she comes across an elderly indigenous woman who has been struck by a mysterious fever after coming to the city. Already, there’s something sinister being set up. Upon hearing that his daughter will be going to Brasilia to study medicine, Justino is overcome with the same mysterious fever. There are also attacks happening in the neighbourhood by some strange monstrous creature, which seems drawn to Justino.
At the centre of the film is the relationship between father and daughter. Justino is a quiet man who prefers not to make a fuss; he has done his best to integrate into society but is still treated as an outsider by certain work colleagues who refer to him as “Indian” and make other racist remarks. Whereas, in contrast, Vanessa has fully embraced modern city life, seeking out bigger and brighter challenges. When her father asks her how long she will be gone for, and she replies that it will be five years, the character’s inner turmoil is beautifully captured in Myrupu’s face. The scenes between Peixoto and Myrupu are tender and touching to watch and are what really hold the film together.
Da-Rin explores the concept of identity in the modern world and, despite The Fever focusing on an indigenous individual, there’s something universal about the film’s theme. It’s very timely when you consider how many people have had to endure changes during the coronavirus pandemic and reassess what the most important aspects of life are. Da-Rin does an excellent job of introducing us to the mundane existence of Justino as the camera starts in a mid-shot of him at work, struggling to stay awake. We follow him on his journey to his humble home on a crowded bus, making his way across a busy street. Whenever there is talk about his life before the city, Justino speaks with a voice full of longing for a simpler, less hectic and more exciting time.
There may be some who find the film’s aimless, meandering narrative frustrating. There’s no explanation as to why Justino is struck by this fever. There’s no real conclusion in terms of him facing up to his obnoxious and bigoted work colleague. And there’s no explanation regarding the mysterious creature terrorising the neighbourhood. Sometimes the film’s steady, slow pace makes the runtime feel a lot longer than it is and the lack of action does make the film a little challenging to watch. However, a feeling of foreboding dread keeps on building throughout and this manages to keep your attention.
Although The Fever won’t be to everyone’s tastes – some will find it hard to get past the first 10 minutes – if you manage to keep engaged, it is a meaningful film that brings up some interesting questions. The film is masterfully directed and features some strong central performances, so any problems in terms of pace are compensated.