The Invisible Collection (A Coleção Invisível): Rio Review

A superior thriller with subtle literary feel.

Bernard Attal's polished Brazilian mystery delves deep into a troubled playboy's family history.

A sentimental journey becomes a mysterious mission impossible in this superior suspense drama, a fusion of Brazilian and European ingredients from the French-born writer-director Bernard Attal. Following its world premiere at the Rio Film Festival last week, The Invisible Collection seems likely to earn further festival slots. Theatrical prospects outside domestic markets are less certain, but at heart this is a gripping and well-crafted literary thriller with potentially universal appeal.

Brazilian pin-up and lanky Tom Cruise lookalike Vladimir Brichta stars as Beto, a hedonistic party organizer in the picturesque northern beach city of Salvador whose self-absorbed life is suddenly thrown into turmoil by a tragic car crash. In the depths of his grief, Beto’s emotionally fragile mother (Conceição Senna) reveals the parlous state of the family finances, dispatching him on a mission into Brazil’s Deep South to try and buy back a collection of valuable prints sold to a wealthy cocoa plantation owner (Walmor Chagas) some 40 years before by the art-dealer father he never knew. But Beto is forced to turn amateur detective after the now-blind rancher’s wife (Clarisse Abujamra) and daughter (Ludmila Rosa) prove fiercely hostile to his advances, chasing him off their land with guns.

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Nuanced and novelistic in texture, The Invisible Collection plays with the tensions between urban and rural, north and south, young and old, rich and poor. Though peppered with cultural and financial insights into contemporary Brazilian society, the plot is actually based on a short story first published in 1927 by the Austrian-Jewish author Stefan Zweig. Coincidentally, Zweig would later emigrate to Brazil during his extended flight from Nazi persecution. He lived in the Rio suburbs from 1940 to 1942, when he and his wife committed suicide, driven to despair by events back in Europe.

It is no spoiler to reveal that Beto does finally succeed in charming and coercing his way into meeting the mysterious plantation boss and viewing his elusive prints. The twist in the tale is a little too neat and predictable, and arguably something of an anti-climax given all the preceding intrigue, but it still resonates long after the story ends. Applying a slick modern polish to dusty old source material, The Invisible Collection is essentially an old-fashioned pot-boiler, but a pure pleasure to watch.

Screening: Rio Film Festival screening, October  4

Production companies: Santa Luzia Filmes, Ondina Filmes

Producer: Diana Gurgel

Cast: Vladimir Brichta, Walmor Chagas, Ludmila Rosa, Clarisse Abujamra, Conceição Senna

Director: Bernard Attal

Writers: Bernard Attal, Sergio Machado, Iziane Mascarenhas

Cinematographer: Matheus Rocha

Editor: Karen Harley

Music: Silvain Vanot

Sales agent: Santa Luzia Filmes, Ondina Filmes

Rating TBC, 89 minutes