Sunday, October 16, 2011

Black God, White Devil

I have a collection of large number of films which are neither Hindi, nor English, and which are neither mainstream nor accessible. But, I consider them works of art, and I consider that as a student, I must make myself aware of this art.

That’s what the argument I proffered to a friend recently, again. I gave him a film, which is decidedly slow, and he could not see it more than 15 minutes (I think it was Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Nostalghia’). It was his self-imposed time limit. If he fails to enter to the world of a film in 15 minutes, he would give up. I would argue with him that it’s not a right approach. You must give the filmamaker a chance to persuade you; cinema after all the most expensive all art form, in terms of its creation, and when a filmmaker decides to tell a film story in a particular way, there ought to be a reason for it.

It’s easy to preach than practise. I had acquired a copy of the classic Brazilian film, ‘Black God, White Devil’ (Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol, 1964) more than a year ago. But, I still have to sit through it. I am sure it would be rewarding experience, but somehow, I haven’t been able to make myself do it.

There are several other films like that, which I know I must watch, and never got around to do that. The latest is Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011); you’ll need to be in a really good mood to go though this wonderful, but incessantly depressing film; there is Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped; the Italian film The Best of Youth (2003), mainly due to its length of three hour and forty minutes (but then, I saw the equally long ‘Carlos’ and it was a rewarding experience.); and now that I am thinking on the subject, I haven’t even seen The Bicycle Thief (1948) completely.

For the last two weeks, however, I have working my way towards the latest Terrence Malick’s Cannes winner, ‘The Tree of Life’ (2011). It’s a special film, no doubt about it, and wonderous to look it, yet, you need patience to complete the film in one go. I have fallen asleep twice during the course of the 2-hour film (I fell asleep even during the first time I saw ‘Nostalghia’). Yet, I need to finish seeing the film and try to make sense of it, since it is the most important film released this year.

Wikipedia tells me: Black God, White Devil (Portuguese: Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol, literally, "God and the Devil in the Land of Sun") is a 1964 Brazilian film directed and written by Glauber Rocha. The movie stars Othon Bastos, Maurício do Valle, Yoná Magalhães, and Geraldo Del Rey. It belongs to the Cinema Novo movement, addressing the socio-political problems of 1960s Brazil. The film starts in the 1940s, during another drought in the sertão, when ranch hand Manuel (Geraldo Del Rey) is fed up with his situation. His boss tries to cheat him of his earnings and Manuel kills him, fleeing with his wife, Rosa (Yoná Magalhães). Now an outlaw, Manuel joins up with a self-proclaimed saint who condones violence (at one point slaughtering a baby) and preaches disturbing doctrines. It is now Rosa who turns to killing and the two are on the move once again. And so it goes, the two running from one allegiance to another, following the words of others as they attempt to find a place in their ruthless land. Blending mysticism, religion, and popular culture in this symbolic and realistic drama, Rocha insists that rather than follow the external and obscure dogmas of culture and religion, man must determine his path by his own voice. More Here.

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