About As minhas sensações são tudo o que tenho para oferecer

By Marie-Pauline Mollaret

How close can you get to anyone? How much can you really understand and know anyone? Isadora Neves Marques shines a gentle, elegant, and funny light on the impossible quest for completeness between two people, regardless of their feelings for one another. This intimate and melancholic tale, with its misty beauty, portrays the eternal desire of human beings to not be alone with oneself. 

Isadora Neves Marques’s interview

Why did you decide to situate the film as a continuation of your previous work, "Becoming Male in the Middle Ages"? 

Let me answer your question with an anecdote. "Becoming Male in the Middle Ages” is a film focused on a woman who ultimately decides to be the surrogate mother to a gay couple friends of hers. Rehearsing with the cast, maybe around our fifth day of work and stuck on a character detail that I can’t recall now, I gave the actors a short story that I had secretly written – a story set twenty years later where that baby, which we hear so much about in the film, is by then an adult woman. Surprised, the cast laughed at me for putting so much work into the characters’ psychology and biography, but the truth is that when I like a character it’s hard for me to let them go. After that film, I kept that story in my mind. After all, "Becoming Male in the Middle Ages” was a film about family and genealogy, so it felt curious to see who that baby grew up to be and what happened to the characters. “My Senses Are All I Have to Offer” is not a linear sequel – for example, the surrogate mother is not mentioned – but once I realized that Lana, who is seemingly the central character of my new short, was torn between a desire to belong in this upper-class, artistic family and a certain critical distance to them, I knew I had a film there. For those who have seen the previous film, I’m sure you’ll have fun with specific continuity details, but because the stories don’t match perfectly you don’t need to have watched it at all. In other words, I’m more interested in creating a universe or a world with which I can play rather than in a coherent saga.

In your cinema, there are often elements of science fiction mixed with much more classical and contemporary elements: what does the genre bring to your narratives? 

I’m tending towards slice of life narratives where an apparent normality is either disrupted by abnormal conditions, which we can call science fiction, or are outright unbelievable to begin with. A sort of naturalistic science fiction. All artistic decisions, from scriptwriting to photography and editing, start from the subtlety of this premise, as I try, with my teams, to find a balance between the mundane and the fantastical. In this film, telepathy is the disruptive element. But again, it’s not because I’m simply interested in telepathy. Telepathy appeared to me as a way to convey the emotions and anxieties of the characters and to work, in regards to acting, photography, and sound, with the unstated, with the silences and the humors. When you are intimate with a new lover, or maybe after years of relationship with a caring partner, that bond can come close to telepathy – I wanted to indulge in that sensation. I wanted to explore both the beauty and the violence of that intimacy; when you crave that bond or, inversely, when you have to stand your ground and say “I can’t let you in now.” Perhaps counterintuitively, science fiction, or this speculative fiction if you prefer, is the perfect place for me to explore this normality. It helps that I’m a science fiction fan.

What is obviously very moving is that regardless of the era and the current technologies, the connection between two human beings remains just as fragile and incomplete, and the desire for closeness also remains the same... Perhaps is it a (impossible) quest inherent to human nature?

We are bound by our subjectivity, to the point that believing that the person in front of you also has one is fundamentally a question of faith. Existentially, this is the ultimate human gap. It is felt deeply with a lover, for example. To be united and disappear in them, knowing that that will be forever impossible. But in the film, I also wanted to touch on this feeling of trying to be supportive and understanding of a lover, a father, a mother, a family, but that ultimately we are alone inside our heads and because of it misunderstandings are natural. I feel this is what Lana and Lourdes are beginning to understand as a couple. It’s an old story.

Could you say a few words about your formal choices, especially regarding the use of light and framing?

I decided to yet again invite Marta Simões, with whom I shot the previous two shorts, for director of photography. I knew that with her we’d easily get to the sensitive, organic, and natural mood I wanted – as well as that counterintuitive approach of mine to science fiction. Again, we went with 16mm film, Kodak 200T and 250D. We knew we had many night scenes, with no artificial light, and still I asked for a minimum of grain. We had to plan that carefully and I’m really happy with the results. At the same time, we had the flashback telepathy scenes, where Lana and Lourdes take the sensory pills to sense each other, and even have telepathic sex, at a distance. I didn’t want to differentiate those scenes dramatically from the rest of the story, as I like that you may feel lost and confused with it until you grasp the logic – something that I also communicated with my second-time editor Margarida Lucas. So we just gave those scenes that touch of anamorphic lens distortion, which blur at the edges, and pushed the brightness up. And then, once we visited the country house where most of the story takes place, which is an architectural landmark from 1975 by architect Sérgio Fernandez, with its linear axis, two-levels, large windows, and those beautiful yet awkward, intimately speaking, alcoves for rooms, I accepted its influence on my shots. Finally, despite the several medium-scale framings, I knew we had to get close to the actors’ faces because of the telepathy. Planning and rehearsing those shots was a pleasure, with the team in utter silence after the “Action!” and still seeing the actresses perform their silent lines.