Habana, January, 11th, 2018 (Douglas Fahleson). The film Aos Teus Olhos was selected for the SIGNIS Prize at this year’s Havana Film Festival (competing with 18 other films).
Aos Teus Olhos literally translates to “In Your Eyes” but for some reason the English title it had been given was “Liquid Truth,” and may have more to do with the setting of the story rather than an exact translation. The film, directed by Carolina Jabor, is based upon an award-winning Catalan play “Archimedes Principle” and tells the story of Rubens, a charismatic and enthusiastic swimming teacher in the local leisure center, who coaches competitive swimming to pre-teen kids.
If Rubens, as played by Daniel de Oliviera, were a coin, the audience would certainly be presented with both sides of him. On the one side we see him as the ever smiling, always engaging, very helpful friend to all of the kids and everyone around. And on the other side we see a picture of a selfish narcissist that smokes in the leisure center’s changing room, shares stories with his co-workers about the female students that follow him on social media, and his general prowess as a ladies man.
This coin adeptly remains spinning as the audience is tasked with discerning for themselves which side of the coin is the most appropriate face of Rubens.
One of Rubens’ young students, Alex (Luiz Felipe Mello), fails to do well in a swim meet and later mentions to his controlling (and separated) parents that Rubens kissed him on the mouth in the shower. The mother (Stella Rabello), already a bit of a pill-popping, drinking, emotional wreck, decides to attack and verbally lynch Rubens on social media (Facebook, Instagram, the school’s website…) because of her son’s comments. This turns Rubens life (and that of his live-in girlfriend Sofia, played by Luisa Arraes) into a living hell.
Rubens’ supervisor, Ana (Malu Galli), is forced to be the surrogate mediator and cautions all involved to wait until more detailed information is available. This only serves to instigate Alex’s father (Marco Ricca) to take justice into his own hands and he then brings the police into the picture.
Screenwriter Lucas Paraizo and Ms. Jabor expertly keep the audience positioned on the thin edge of the coin, as we are left to legitimately wonder and question… Did Rubens do it? Or didn’t he? Did Alex make this story up because he’s upset about the swim meet and didn’t want to face his father’s reaction? How much of the boy’s behavior is impacted by his parent’s divorce? Are the boundaries slightly different in a South American culture for a teacher? And for his students?
In this regard, Aos Teus Olhos walks the tightrope of perspective as expertly as what John Patrick Shanley did in both the stage and film versions of his play “Doubt.”
But what makes this story a most timely and current one is its poignant commentary on today’s pervasive use and impact of social media. Rubens is recklessly convicted (outside of the legal realm of due process) of a crime and becomes the victim of societal abuse and hatred because of a parent’s accusation.
Was it a baseless accusation by someone with their own separate agenda?
Or was he guilty of this inappropriate and inexcusable behavior?
You’ll have to experience the film for yourself to see…
Archimedes' Principle states that the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces.