‘Medusa’ (2022) Review: Feminist Rage Binds Women Together to Seek Freedom
“Jezebel! Slut! Sinner! Delilah!” A group of women in creepy masks chase after a young woman late at night. When they reach her, they kick her until she is ready to confess her sins. The young woman finally admits to her wrongdoings and promises to devote herself to the Lord, while the group records her confesses on video. Anita Rocha da Silveira’s Medusa is a feminist thriller focusing on an evangelical community in Brazil. “The Treasures of the Altar’’ is a female group that prioritises beauty standards imposed by society. As for the male group, “The Watchmen of Sion’’ practises self-discipline and exercising as part of the routine to eliminate sinners in the community. Medusa explores the pressures of anti-feminism and patriarchy through the perspective of a young woman who drifts apart from the religious doctrines and feminine purity.
At night, the Treasures hunt down sinners and force them to the righteous path of the Lord. In the morning, they are singing harmonious religious songs to the crowd of worshippers at the church. The leader of the group, Michele (Lara Tremouroux), records beauty tutorials on YouTube and demonstrates how to take modest selfies and how to wear makeup to look presentable for their partners. One night, Mari (Mari Oliviera), second-in-command of the Treasures, and the girl gang chase a young woman. Mari gets brutally attacked, leaving a prominent scar on her face. She gets fired from her cosmetic surgery job and takes a step back from the night crusades with the Treasures because she is no longer considered beautiful. Michele worries that she might not be able to find a husband with a scar on her face. Unsure of her future, Mari decides to find Treasure’s most famous sinner, Melissa (Bruna Linzmeyer), a young, local actress whose face was burnt because she appeared nude in a film, and for other countless accusations. To bring some kind of purpose into Mari’s life again, she finds out that Melissa might be hiding in a hospital nearby, and she gets a job there to find her. Mari realises the errors of her actions and begins to reflect on her wrongdoings.
Medusa explores themes of purity and self-righteousness within the narrative, as well as the religious group that demonstrates these actions all for the purpose of saving the sinner’s lives for the afterlife. The process of preserving the sinner’s souls consists of stalking and beating them and eventually, recording their punishment to spread it across social media. Mari and the Treasures find their actions to be honourable and according to the rules within the church, they are never wrong. Da Silveira approaches this theme by reflecting on the horrors of the Christian churches that forced Indigenous people to convert, and this is a painful part of history.
Also, the movie focuses on the Treasures’ purity, conforming to patriarchal standards, and displaying hatred towards women who are sexually liberated. Beauty on the outside is much more presentable and important than what’s on the inside. They learn how to style their hair and strive for perfection. But there are scars and secrets beneath their pureness. Michele doesn’t tell Mari about her abusive relationship with one of the fellow Watchmen and she hides her scars behind her makeup. Da Silveira explores the abusive side of intimate relationships that women hide due to society’s lack of compassion for the victims. This reality is portrayed with Michele’s arc, in which she tries to hide her scars and pretend to act like her relationship is healthy and good, but there is more to it than what everyone sees. Women are conditioned to keep their abuse a secret from everyone because they are taught it is normal. It’s just one of the many ways that the patriarchy controls women, and Medusa twists the narrative and shows that it’s only women who can save each other.
After Mari begins to see the cracks within her religious group, she re-evaluates everything about her teachings. When she meets her colleagues, it opens her eyes to the church’s treatment of people who are not like them. Most of the patients in the hospitals are victims of the two groups that hunt and beat sinners. Mari processes this information by tending to the patients and realising that the brutal attacks have hurt them more instead of ‘fixing them.’ She slowly steps away from the church and Michele is alarmed by her behaviour. This is where their friendship is tested. After Mari reaches out to Michele, she is awakened and her true self emerges. It is revealed that Michele is different from the rest of her group. When she finally admits the truth to Mari, she realises that this is much more important than sacrificing her life for someone who doesn’t appreciate her. The power of empathy between women is the strength shown in the final moments of Medusa. It’s a cathartic moment for these women who were abused and manipulated to believe the teachings of a patriarchal community.
Medusa dismantles the concept of monstrous women in Mari and Michele’s character journey. Melissa’s sexual freedom is harshly judged by the group, but it also gives them to stand against the teachings of abusive men and the church. Freedom is the ultimate goal for Mari, Michele, and Melissa. It’s the strength between women that binds them together and finds themselves running through the streets expressing their sexual freedom, expression, and feminist rage.