This is a candid, fascinating and at times disturbing look into the life of a lonely, older and marginalised gay man. Greta tells the story of 70-year-old male nurse Pedro (Marco Nanini), who works in an overcrowded public hospital in the Northeastern city of Fortaleza. His transsexual friend Daniela (played by cis actress Denise Weinberg) suffers from kidney failure and cannot find a hospital bed. So Pedro secretly takes a wounded young man (Demick Lopes) into his own home in order to vacate a hospital space for his ailing friend.
The young man turns out to be a criminal who viciously murdered another man with 41 stabs. Despite the horrific revelation, the age gap, and the fact that both men are now in trouble with the police, they develop a tender and sexual relationship. The man refuses to budge from Pedro’s modest dwellings. And soon Pedro – who prefers being called Greta in his intimacy – is attached to the mysterious stranger, too. Meanwhile, Daniela refuses hospital treatment, despite knowing that her condition is very grave and she could be facing her very final days.
The final third of the movie consists of a jaunt into Fortaleza’s LGBT world. There is a very explicit oral sex scene in a sauna/ sex joint. Daniela delivers a classic Brazilian song on stage in a cabaret club. Pedro sits in a bar while a gogo dancer performs in the background. This is bleak and yet moving representation of an impoverished and marginalised segment of Brazilian society. Solitude is also a central topic. Pedro cries out line: “I want to be alone”, in reference to Greta Garbo’s famous phrase. Despite enjoying his time with the murderous stranger, the lonely man struggles to adapt to a life of companionship.
This is a very audacious film in its representation of queerness at old age. Marco Nanini is an iconic television actor at the age of 70, and he’s heterosexual. The nudity and some of the sex are very graphic. Nanini does not perform penetration and fellatio, but does appear with an erection and very much “hands on”. The portrayal of the marginalised LGBT community of Fortaleza is equally graphic and honest.
Yet this is not a perfect movie. There are a few teething problems, not entirely unusual for a first-time director. Firstly, there are a few loose ends (for example, it’s never entirely clear how the murderer repeatedly leaves and returns to Pedro’s apartment). Demick is not very convincing a manipulative murderer. And he chemistry between Nanini and Demick isn’t very good. As a result, some of the sex sequences don’t seem very authentic, and some of the dialogues a little contrived. And the ending of the movie is a bit clumsy. Nanini, on the other hand, is nothing short of spectacular.
The Brazilian LGBT community has been consistently berated by Brazil’s fascist president Jair Bolsonaro. He removed LGBT rights from the Human Rights statute in his second day in office his year, and he has consistently and unequivocally insulted the LGBT community. He shouted profanities at the only member LGBT member of parliament Jean Wyllys, and he clarified that he would prefer a dead child to a gay son. Jean Wyllys left the country a few weeks ago in self-exile following repeated death threats. Bolsonaro openly celebrated his departure on Twitter, calling the occasion “a great day for Brazil”. The importance of progressive and liberating films like Greta therefore cannot be overstated.
Greta showed in the 69th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2019, when this piece was originally written. It premieres in the UK as part of BFI Flare (March 21st to the 31st).