Catarina Vasconcelos’s “The Metamorphosis of Birds” tells a beautiful story of her family life. Vasconcelos’ visual storytelling further showcases her talent. Caterina wrote, directed and appeared in this documentary. Within the images in the movie, the importance of visuals becomes clear.
The concept of being aesthetically overwhelmed provides a sharp contrast to the low production quality of many other films. At the end of the film, I realized that every frame was extremely intentional. Through Vasconcelos’s meticulous visual organization, she attempts to illustrate important themes about what mattered most to each member of the family.
The narrative begins with Caterina’s grandparents, Henrique and Beatriz. Henrique is now in residential care and feels as though he has lost control of his body. The idea of the body is a recurring theme throughout the film. The deterioration of the body is further enhanced through the dynamic visuals.
The imagery of landscapes of the garden, sea and the mountains are magnificent. The feeling these images invoked was a moment where you find yourself taken aback by its sheer beauty. The garden imagery was best highlighted within the scene where the plants are shown to be overtaking the house. Even after loss and grief, the garden continues to grow.
The garden is shown to be one of many things that Beatriz (Ana Margarida Vasconcelos) took care of throughout the film. Beatriz’s love story with Henrique is told beautifully.
Beatriz and Henrique write each other letters, but, in the end he requests the letters be burned. He is unable to do this due to his sickness, so it is left to his family. They grapple with the feelings of not wanting to burn the letters but wanting to honor Henrique’s wish.
This film highlights the many responsibilities these women have. Commentaries on societal expectations are explored in a variety of different ways. The idea of womanhood is even shown within a shot of a wall socket that is attached to the walls without being able to move. Without the sockets, there would be no light.
This view is contrasted with what men who are portrayed plugs. They can move around as they wish and plug into whichever socket they like. They are not aware of the differences between men and women. Women are expected to cook, have children and take care of the family. The portrayal of gender provided similarities and differences to American societal expectations.
Beatriz is a cultivator of life through both her children and her garden. Beatriz and Henrique’s story is a prominent part of the documentary. Henrique’s story invokes the imagery of the ocean, but the imagery of the ocean is not limited to his story. The closing shot shows Caterina and Henrique pushing a boat out into the sea with a tree inside.