About Shimmering Bodies

by Chloé Cavillier

As they leave high school, Jorge invites Mariana to come with him to Leiria where he’s spending the weekend with his family. Through glances and cautious gestures, Inês Teixeira evokes the burgeoning turmoil between two teenagers from Lisbon, who dither between love and friendship. Corpos cintillantes, with its contemplative pace, its organic photography and interpretation, is the gentle and radiant portrayal of youth on a journey to discover its desires.

Interview with Inês Teixeira

The characters leave Lisbon rather quickly for Leiria. Was this place important in your desire to make the film?

Leiria was a crucial element from the early start. As I was writing the script, I searched for a city outside Lisbon where the story could unfold. I recalled a house in Leiria, which belonged to a friend of my parents and where I spent most of my summer vacations during my childhood and teenage years. This place held a special meaning for me, and I had many memories associated with it. So as I was writing the script I had this house in mind and I’m very grateful that I was able to shoot the film in such a meaningful place.

Leiria city itself was also a significant location in the film because I wanted the characters to have a change of scenery and experience different environments. The city has a perfect mix of nature and urban landscapes that worked perfectly for what I was trying to achieve. In particular, I wanted the "never have I ever" scene to be placed in the city and not in nature, in contrast with the other scenes where they are alone. Furthermore, there was also the desire to explore the relationship between adolescence and public spaces. The skate park or the bicycle ride reflects the sense of exploration and discovery that often comes with adolescence. 

The brightness of the film appears in its title. How did you work on the light with your director of photography? 

Working with Vasco Viana on the photography of the film was a truly special collaboration. From an early stage, we shared ideas and references, and as the film developed, the photographic identity became clear. We both have a passion for the 16mm look, the texture of it, and the printed colors, but for my first short film, we decided to shoot it in digital. Vasco suggested that we crop the Arri sensor to super 16mm, to have more depth of field and a less sharp image. We also discussed the use of a handheld camera and how to achieve a subjective feeling while still maintaining beautiful frames.

Our aim was to create a natural look, taking advantage of natural light on exterior locations and keeping the cold color of early spring. I am particularly satisfied with the work done on the night scenes, where I think we achieved an amazing result. Overall, it was an incredible experience working with Vasco, and his contribution was essential in achieving the delicate and natural look that we wanted for the film.

It is rare enough to be underlined : your film has almost no music. What were your intentions concerning the sound atmosphere? 

While aiming for a naturalistic sound atmosphere in the film, I ended up including more music than I originally planned. I'm cautious about using music in films as it can greatly impact how the audience reacts to a scene and can both enhance or limit the meaning of a scene. For example, in the bicycle scene, I intentionally left out music to build tension between Mariana and Jorge with the sound of the bicycle only.

To achieve a naturalistic sound, we took advantage of the soundscape encountered during filming. However, it was a challenge in post-production as the house where most of the film takes place is near a highway, which meant we had to remove background noise from exterior scenes and replace it with other natural sounds such as wind and birds singing.

The foley work was also impactful, especially in the night scenes inside the house when Mariana struggles to fall asleep. The tiny sounds of her breathing or her steps to the kitchen helped highlight and materialize the silence.

For the music, Tomé Palmeirim, the sound director and editor, helped me search for a Portuguese song for Carla to sing in the car. We chose "Jogos Florais" by Clã, and having Carla sing acapella in the car was a perfect fit for the scene.

For the final scene, Joana Góis, the film editor, and I decided to use "Sentimental Mood" by John Coltrane and Duke Ellington to enhance the uplifting and confident feeling of the moment. This song has been with me since I started writing the film, and I'm thrilled that it was able to close the film so perfectly.

The film relies heavily on the quiet complicity and natural discretion of the actors. How did you choose and direct them?  

When it came to casting, I knew I wanted to approach the process in an ethical and responsible way, particularly when working with young actors. To ensure this, I sought advice from my friend Miguel Nunes, a talented Portuguese actor, who helped me design the whole casting. 

Our online casting call drew over 500 applicants in just three days, and we asked for pictures and two self-tapes, one where they introduced themselves and another where they interpreted a scene from the film. From those, we narrowed the pool down to 20 actors for both lead and supporting roles. The casting experience included body exercises to establish trust among the actors, followed by an interpretation exercise where participants performed a scene from Rohmer Summer’s Tale in pairs, switching partners to explore different dynamics. 

It was also our goal to have young actors from Leiria, where the film takes place and where there are fewer opportunities for aspiring actors. I'm so grateful that we found an amazing group of aspiring actors from Leiria, who helped bring the skatepark scene to life. 

For the lead roles, I already knew Maria and had a secret intuition that she would be perfect for the protagonist, but it was only through the casting process that I made my final decision. Maria proved to be an amazing actress with incredibly smart choices and a flexible approach to my directions. Gaspar was a pleasant surprise, and from the moment I saw his self-tape, I knew he had the delicate vibe and energy that I was looking for. I appreciated his bravery and freedom in his choices, and he was a pleasure to work with.

I am thrilled with the entire cast of the film and I feel that Maria and Gaspar were the perfect actors for the main roles. Their effortless subtlety and intuitive understanding of the characters helped to bring the story to life. They both demonstrated a remarkable level of generosity and trust throughout the production, and it was truly an honor to work with both of them.

The film feels quite contemplative. How did you work on its particular rhythm ? 

I believe that rhythm is something that naturally emerges during the filmmaking process. While we were shooting, we focused on building the scenes and framing the shots, but it wasn't until I was editing the film with Joana Góis that we found the particular rhythm of the film.

In the beginning, the pace is faster as we introduce the context and the characters. However, as we arrive in Leiria, the film slows down and focuses more on Mariana's experience and her expectations towards Jorge. The narrative events are subtle, and we observe the time they spend together as it unfolds. We tried to maintain a sense of economy in the editing to keep the real-time experience, whenever possible.

One exception to this is the skate park scene, where the most important thing was the exchange of gazes between the characters and the overall mood of the scene, which was mostly constructed through sound.

Towards the end of the film, the pace slows down even further during the night at the house, and we use a slow tracking shot of the bouquet of flowers to signal the dawn of a new day and a subtle change in Mariana.