Narrative is not needed to create an enthralling, one-of-a-kind story that keeps you glued to your screen. This is what Pedro Diogenes and Guto Parente’s mesmerizing feature film proves without a shadow of a doubt. My Own Private Hell (Inferninho) is a deliciously strange and visually stunning motion picture that oscillates between drama and impressively well-executed dark humor. Despite its minute budget, Inferninho manages to have a long-lasting impact on its audience through its theatrical, mordant approach.
Deusimar (Yuri Yamamoto) is the trans woman owner of a crumbling, murky bar named Inferninho, where estranged people from all walks of life gather to share their suffering, hopes and fantasies. The staff welcomes outsiders, including a man dressed like a rabbit, while the clientele is an engrossing gallery of misfits (from a gorgeously fearless, bearded Wonder Woman to a man painted from head to toe in silver). Although the title portrays the broken-down bar as a “private hell”, it seems to be more of a paradise for those who cannot or do not know how to function in the real world. They work for little to no money in a job that may be deemed dull or dreary, but they are content because they have each other. They are a family and they can be themselves in this safe haven. At least until the world so foreign to them begins closing in on them.
Pure, ascetic poetry rarely captures the meat of life, its dark and twisted aspects, its chaotic, ugly and messy corners. But Parente and Diogenes turn this paradigm on its head and use the transparent beauty of written verse in a surprisingly decadent way, in order to convey the rapacious, sloppy nature of hedonism. Not at all self-denying or stale, the two directors combine jumbled poems with remarkable cinematography, brilliant performances and just the right amount of sarcasm. As such, the film is like nothing you’ve ever seen before at a BFI Flare screening; it’s crisp, sharp-tongued and positively bizarre. It’s bound to immerse the viewer in a world of insane, unadulterated imagination, without remembering to snap them back to reality. It’s using escapism as a guilty pleasure at its finest.
What is powerful about My Own Private Hell (Inferninho) is that it does not rely on its sardonic dialogue, nor on its seductive cinematography. It goes deep and tackles genuine issues, from the lurking effects of capitalism to the dangers and exhilarating, self-destructive safety of isolation. Crossing the line between reality and fiction, the film puts forth an absurdist perspective where the well-defined borders of self and other become blurred and tarnished to the point of extinction. My Own Private Hell (Inferninho) is an imaginary, seemingly secure space for misfits who cannot sustain an existence anywhere other than in their chimeric refuge.
The camerawork is fitted for the motion picture’s gloomy, introspective nature. It focuses on faces, gestures, grimaces and the microcosm that is each character. It fascinatingly creates the impression that there is no external universe and even each element from the story world is a separate entity and space in itself. For instance, the viewer wouldn’t guess that the bar’s seating area and the drinking area are anywhere near each other. In fact, they are portrayed to seem like two different worlds, so utterly close but so disparate in nature. Moreover, there is never a panned out, clearly defined shot of the entire setting, there are only individualized depictions of several locations, like pieces of a large puzzle. All of this creates a hypnotic atmosphere which is completely disconnected from the reality of the hardship, gruesome abuse and hatred that LGBT people experience.
The mind is a powerful tool, but it cannot resist external influences forever, as My Own Private Hell (Inferninho) showcases towards the end. The entire bar is threatened with demolition and the lives that the characters have created for themselves there are soon to be shattered and exist only as ghosts of the past. When everything becomes overwhelming, they have only each other to lean on. This display of camaraderie and sharing of pain is the most touching part of Diogenes and Parente’s film. Ultimately, My Own Private Hell (Inferninho) is an earnest and piercing story about human connection, where art and debauchery intertwine and reality crosses over into the realm of imagination.