OS DEUSES E OS MORTOS (1970)
aka Of Gods and the Dead
Article 3544 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-3-2011
Posting Date: 4-28-2011
Directed by Ruy Guerra
Featuring Norma Bengell, Othon Bastos, Itala Nandi
What it is: Brazilian New Wave with surrealism
An adventurer (who has already been shot seven times) gets involved in a battle for a cacao plantation, setting loose a wave of bloody killings.
This movie entered my list from John Stanley’s “Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again” book under the mistranslated title OF GODS AND THE UNDEAD. With that kind of title, it’s little wonder that he thought the plot involved people rising from the dead, and, to be honest, Othon Bastos’s gruesome makeup certainly makes him look like the living dead. In truth, the movie is an art film, part of the Brazilian “Udigrudi” movement, an offshoot of “Cinema Novo”. Aware of the art movie credentials of this one, discovering that “Udigrudi” subverted traditional narrative film structure, and knowing that my copy was without English dubbing or subtitles, I went into this one without any expectations that I would understand what was going on, and the above plot description is taken from what IMDB has about the film. As usual in this case, I was forced to rely on the visual aspects of the film, and on that level, I can say quite frankly that I was blown away. Perhaps the most impressive aspect I found was the direction and the camerawork; many of the scenes are shot with a what looks to be a hand-held camera, and given that some of the long scenes in this movie were shot in one take, I became fascinated by the way that the camera would weave in and out among the actors, focusing in on the most interesting visual pictures and then moving on, not showing you certain details until late in the scene… whatever else you can say about these scenes, they are stunning pieces of cinematic choreography. The music is also startling and effective, and the movie certainly seems to delve into fantasy and horror before it’s all over. Just on a visual level, it’s often breathtaking, and the movie won a whole slew of Brazilian cinema awards. Even if I never come by a copy in English, I’ll probably give this one another viewing just to appreciate its visual brilliance.