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‘Divine Love’ (‘Divino Amor’) review: Religion & sex come together in excellent film

A sensual dystopia?

Divine Love presents a different type of dystopian future. The Brazilian science fiction film has all the expected ingredients – religion and state practically co existing to run a country, for example – but it adds an element not normally found in the genre: graphic sex. Director Gabriel Mascaro is not trying to solely titillate, however. This is a movie that deals with many serious issues.

The film focuses on a notary at the registry office named Joana. She is a deeply religious would be marriage counselor who uses her position to attempt to talk couples out of divorce. She is happy knowing she is doing the work of God while making others’ lives better. She and her husband Danilo have also been unsuccessfully attempting to have a child. 

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The best way to describe Divine Love may be an “erotic protest”. The plot is a mix of carnal pleasure and religious fervor. The two are not separate ideas in Mascaro’s vision of 2027 Brazil. They weave in and around each other. It sounds like the opposing ideals would be confusing to the anyone watching Divine Love. Especially when early narration informs the audience that Brazil’s infamous Carnaval is no longer the country’s premiere event. The religious couples only Party of Supreme Love has supplanted it.

It works thanks to the brilliant storytelling of the movie. Instead of being an all out assault on religion, Divine Love suggests that organized religion is important to the human condition. It can provide much needed solace and guidance. In doing so, the film has fun with its rave like atmosphere and trance beats. It is a pleasant surprise that makes the movie more interesting.

This also adds gravity to Divine Love’s critiques of religion. When drive through churches are introduced it is genuinely funny instead of cynical. It also means more when apparent contradictions appear. Mascaro takes a clear stance, but the story allows audiences to hear both sides. The movie does a great job of pointing out the unquestioning loyalty required of religion (and governments).

'Divine Love' ('Divino Amor') review: Religion & sex come together in excellent film

The movie looks and sounds great. Much like the rest of Divine Love, it is a maelstrom of seemingly conflicting ideas. At times, it is a wild 1980s like party filled with synth music. It will then become patient and contemplative before changing gears again to a religious orgy. It should be overwhelming -and in some ways it is – but it all flows smoothly.

Divine Love is a bold movie from Brazil that uses science fiction conventions to tell a very human story. The camerawork and score are both stunning and help engage the audience. The story never backs itself into a corner and presents different ideas. It is a unique and fun ride that will thrill anyone who watches while also having them ask questions.

A coming of age, Southern gothic, murder mystery?

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