What might happen if a casual one night stand was forcibly turned into a lifelong relationship? That’s the basic premise of The Pink Cloud, a Brazilian sci-fi drama which imagines that the eponymous cumulus descends upon the Earth all of a sudden, killing anyone exposed to it within seconds. With no recourse but to stay inside for the long haul, practical strangers Yago and Giovana are forced to get better acquainted in the days, months and years that follow.
The parallels between their enforced quarantine and the lockdown measures imposed to contain COVID-19 are unmistakable, but the idea behind The Pink Cloud was actually conceived in 2017 and the film shot two years later, long before the word “pandemic” became mainstream rhetoric. As such, it’s an astonishing piece of imagination which doesn’t bother itself with the technical details – at times openly acknowledging and brushing off logistical difficulties within the plot – in favour of concentrating on the human response.
Fortunately for Yago and Giovana, their midnight tryst ended at her mother’s spacious two-floor house, meaning there is plenty of room for them to lounge around in. However, their only other interactions take place via video call and the pressure soon sets in; Yago’s calls are invariably to an increasingly senile father who fears his live-in nurse is trying to poison him and fantasises about returning the favour, while Giovana speaks to a much younger sister who is trapped at a never-ending sleepover and an increasingly depressed friend who lives alone. Even as their own relationship progresses and their family expands, Yago and Giovana begin to grate on one another, with Giovana especially feeling the strain.
Are there lessons to be learned from Iuli Gerbase’s film, then? Giovana’s mounting frustration chips away at her spirit and turns her into a mere husk of her former self, while Yago’s apathetic acceptance of his lot appears to leave him largely unaffected. It’s debatable whether any meaningful takeaways can be extracted from this, but Renata de Lélis and Eduardo Mendonça deserve plentiful credit for holding the viewer’s attention for the duration, while Gerbase tight script and exemplary direction also marks her out as one to watch going forwards.
As a behavioural thought experiment, The Pink Cloud is an intriguing study of how humans might respond when deprived of many of their basic freedoms. In the absence of coronavirus, it would still comprise an engaging watch, but the film has inevitably taken on another dimension given that a similar experiment is actually playing out in reality. In the event, it’s a rare case of life imitating art with unsettling precision – but let’s just hope our own period of incarceration isn’t strung out for quite as long as Yago and Giovana’s.
Screened as part of Sundance Film Festival 2021