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Barren Lives (1963)

Vidas Secas (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 11 December 1967 (Sweden)
A poor family in the Northeast of Brazil (Fabiano, the father; Sinhá Vitória, the mother; their 2 children and a dog called Baleia) wander about the barren land searching for a better place... See full summary »
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Credited cast:
Átila Iório ...
Maria Ribeiro ...
Sinhá Vitória (Mother)
Orlando Macedo ...
Soldado Amarelo (Soldier)
Joffre Soares ...
Fazendeiro (Farmer)
Gilvan Lima ...
Boy (as Gilvan)
Genivaldo Lima ...
Boy (as Genivaldo)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Orlando Chagas
Ignacio Costa
Nabor Costa
Oscar de Souza
José Leite
Vanuterio Maia
Manuel Ordonio
Maria Rosa
Antonio Soarez


A poor family in the Northeast of Brazil (Fabiano, the father; Sinhá Vitória, the mother; their 2 children and a dog called Baleia) wander about the barren land searching for a better place to live, with food and work. But the drought and misery destroy their hopes. Written by lukejoplin@infolink.com.br

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

11 December 1967 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Barren Lives  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


Referenced in Soy Cuba, O Mamute Siberiano (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

Tectonic divides
31 July 2014 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

Arid land, poverty, suffering, this is the visit here. The story is about a poor family who eke a miserable life in a homestead in the Brazilian wilderness, but this isn't about a story, it's going through the motions of life, embodying, suffering the hardship.

I like here how it conveys the meaninglesssness, the limits of a world that goes on forever but offers so little to do. Drag your feet under the sun from here to there, pick up firewood, stir a thankless meal, herd bony cattle for the town rancher; a leather bed is their dream, denied until the end.

I'll have you imagine the film like sheets with patterns of life stitched on them that someone hung out in the sun and forgot, the sun has bleached the patterns, the wind and dust have battered them to a lean rough texture, the film is their aimless flapping in the wind.

So overall there's a godforsaken purity here that feels stumbled on to. This poses a dilemma. I can't watch something like this as aesthetic token when it involves the suffering of people, it wholly defeats the purpose. The question for me is how far or close is real life? Of course every shot has been staged, I'm talking about the registered perception; how much truth has seeped in with the dust?

With Bela Tarr, see, we know, reality is the canvas of place on which cosmogonic abstractions are drawn with history as the brush, time as ink. With Rossellini, it's the stage on which a play is enacted, often about the pursuit of a real fulfillment, a real self. Herzog is about this dissonance between staged and real (so much more effectively than Godard), with jumps of madness that blur and edge to purity.

Here it has all been so effectively bleached of difference. So I'm swept. But to a world I can only parch in. It works, in the end I can't wait to leave the place just like the characters who drag their feet away from there. As they do, the question on the children's parched lips is when will they finally become 'real people'? Meaning, in the context of this, that real life is a life of possibility, that lets you envision and create, look beyond suffering.

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