Paloma Rocha, responsible for the restoration of “Deus eo Diabo na Terra do Sol”, from 1964, presented this Wednesday in Cannes, began the session by quoting her father —”the new cinema is eternal”. Thus, from the first images of the beautiful copy of the film of Glauber Rocha who “showed the face of Brazilian cinema at the Cannes Film Festival”.
In fact, Glauber’s second feature film — shown at the mythical festival just two months after the military coup of 1964 — ended up becoming the official representative of a movement considered to be inaugurated with “Vidas Secas”, by Nelson Pereira dos Santosand “Os Fuzis”, by Ruy Guerraboth from 1963.
But “God and the Devil” has not only conquered the political context. The film was able to present to the world a national cinematographic movement equivalent, without exaggeration, to the new wave. Like the French new wave, the new cinema was an attempt to rebuild a country through the seventh art.
The film’s grandiose ambition is evident from the start – an extremely realistic close-up of a dead cattle carcass is accompanied by a piece of Villa Lobosgiving the starting point of the story an allegorical tone.
The use of the composer’s music will continue in the highlights of the story, but it will be combined with another element, a country singer written by Glauber Rocha himself and set to music and sung by Sergio Ricardo.
These vignettes will work as a narrative guide, illustrating episodes that took place in ellipses and even introducing new characters, such as Antonio das Mortes.
The plot of the film is not straightforward either. A cowboy rebels against the injustice of life and embarks on an adventure through the backcountry, meeting a bigoted religious leader and even the bandit Corisco, historical partner of Lampião.
The incident that triggers Manuel’s journey is understandable. Due to the drought, some of the cows he cares for die trying to feed themselves in contaminated water. The colonel to whom the cowboy reports refuses to take the loss and, in one of the best lines in our cinema, sums up the logic that has historically sustained Brazil since the Portuguese. “There is nothing to discuss. The cows that died are yours.”
From there, Manuel goes from disgrace to disgrace, trying to find a way to survive, but always throwing himself into other kinds of litanies. What is curious is that he rebels against the economic captivity of his colonel to submit to the ideology of different leaders who are the different sides of the same coin and end up making him the same promise: the sertão will turn into the sea.
Your first stop is Monte Santo, where a crowd of miserable people submit to a religious leader who promises them golden rain in the hinterland and imposes cowboy penances like climbing a hill on their knees, carrying a stone on the head.
It then moves on to the domain of the bandit Corisco, who in his thirst for vengeance ferociously preys on “good” people, in a scene whose cruelty seems to anticipate what will happen years later in “A Clockwork Orange” from 1971 – although Stanley Kubrick explores the situation more explicitly.
But if the protagonist of “Laranja” was trapped in a political-criminal urban logic, the backdrop of “Deus eo Diabo” is undoubtedly nature at its most overwhelming, the immense back- northeastern country, depicted in an aridity that even hurts the eyes. — even those seduced by the beautiful texture offered by black and white photography.
In this sense, it is curious to think that the final scene, so filmed today, could have come in color, to increase the contrast with the environment that the viewer occupied for the first two hours.
Besides the photography, the feature impresses with a direction that explores the language of cinema without renouncing a deep theatricality in its way of exploring icons, objects and shadows.
There are also courageous ellipses and innovative maneuvers, such as the insertion of Lampião as a character through the voice of Corisco — who re-enacts, in a dialogue with himself, conversations held with the dead leader.
The restoration is impeccable and awaited for years. Until now, the feature was only available on DVDs released in the early 2000s. integration between ambient sound and sound dubbing. actors in some scenes.
The restoration process was privately funded with the help of a Brasilian culture website, which even in Bolsonaro’s Brazil in 2022 still seems shocking. That there is no public interest or money to protect one of the greatest works in the history of national cinema is chilling.
Equally shocking is the current situation in Brazil portrayed by Glauber Rocha. Although there have been advances in the development of the northeastern hinterland in recent decades, the era of the current president has done what it can to halt any form of advance and autonomy in this region.
It is inevitable to think of Manuel, the poor cowboy who, after many adventures, ends up receiving the nickname of Satan. But whoever thinks he is the Devil in the title is wrong. Manuel is just a poor devil, with a little “D”, like so many others that our Brazil still wants to produce.