Medusa Movie Review

Written by Joe Haward

Released by Music Box Films

medusa poster large

Directed by Anita Rocha da Silveira
Written by Anita Rocha da Silveira and Érica Sarmet
2021, 127 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 29th, 2022

Mariana as Mari Oliveria
Michele as Lara Tremouroux
Karen as Joana Medeiros
Lucas as Felipe Frazão
Clarissa as Bruna G
Vivian as Carol Romano
Jonathon as João Vithor Oliveira
Melissa as Bruna Linzmeyer
Pastor Guilherme as Thiago Fragoso

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Medusa is a bold and provocative film, a work that screams meaning into your face yet holds much beneath its surface, a parable of sexuality and female identity. The significance of Medusa being a Brazilian film with a female director (Anita Rocha da Silveira, Kill Me Please) cannot be overstated; Brazil ranks as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for gender-based violence. Medusa thus serves as a message and protest against such violence, giving voice to women so often silenced within patriarchal, evangelical Christian domination.

The rise and power of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity within the cultural and political influence of Brazil has been growing rapidly. In 1970, around ninety percent of the country identified as Catholic, whereas now that has dropped to about fifty percent, yet evangelicals now make up thirty-one percent, and are growing fast. Medusa recognises this shift in the cultural landscape of Brazil.

Medusa opens with a group of masked women walking the streets at night, beating up a lone female and forcing her on film to confess her sins and convert to Christianity. This group of young women are devoted to their church, run by the charismatic Pastor Guilherme (Thiago Fragoso). For one of the group, Mari (Mari Oliveria), obedience and service to the church is the most important thing a woman can do. Life itself operates entirely around the rules of the church, with every thought and action, word and desire internally scrutinized as to their suitability to the doctrines demanded to be followed.

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Part of what makes Medusa so compelling is how realistically it portrays the ideology and culture of certain religious sects. Evangelical Christianity demands everything from you, your entire life internally and externally examined and judged, with any transgression a failure that you are told will have eternal consequences. Not only that, but it takes all other community away from you, leaving only itself, isolating individuals so that the church is all they have, making the act of leaving ever more difficult and painful. Medusa shows this with searing honesty, and holds it up to be judged itself, especially in its dehumanizing and controlling behavior to women.

Yet despite its manipulating power, Mari begins to question everything the church has taught her and begins a journey of self-discovery, not only of her inner self but also of her body. Whereas Mari has always believed sex to be taboo, something that will bring harm and shame, she soon discovers the freedom it can bring her, unlocking hidden joy and possibility.

In one moment Mari, Michele (Lara Tremouroux), and other women, are singing in church about Jesus being their “one true love”. Whilst this may seem a bizarre moment, it in fact reflects the message the evangelical church gives to women; fall in love with Jesus and don’t give your body away to anyone else, unless the church says it’s okay.

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As Mari breaks free from such control and manipulation, the facade of the stable community around her begins to break down, as truth and reality come to the surface, exposing the male domination for what it really is. There are moments throughout Medusa that ring more like a comedy as the absurdity of religious patriarchal beliefs is displayed.

In one version of the original Greek mythology, Medusa was a beautiful woman who was seduced in a temple of Athena by the sea-god Poseidon. This act was deemed sacrilegious by the goddess, and in her wrath, Athena punished Medusa by turning her hair into snakes. Medusa was thus a victim of the whims and desires of those more powerful than her, given a destiny determined by the abuse she suffered.

What Anita Rocha da Silveira, is seeking to do through this film is reclaim the destiny of Brazilian women, giving them a voice, offering a hope that can be found outside the abuses and influence of the evangelical church.

Medusa is a film that reminds viewers that when women reclaim their voice. What follows is freedom, dignity, and the tearing down of abusive power structures. And what a remarkable thing that is.

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Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover

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Joe Haward
Joe Haward
Staff Reviewer
If Joe isn’t holding a crucifix and mumbling incoherent prayers to the demons that he sold his soul to, you’ll find him writing horror and drinking his seventh cup of tea before midday—he is British after all. Someone once told him that he was a terrible writer, so he proved them right by publishing books that no one in their right mind would buy. There are rumours that his wife and children have never read anything he has ever written, but Joe can neither confirm nor deny such reports.
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