During the period of 1964 to 1985, Brazil lived a military dictatorship. In the 60s, the Dominican friars Tito, Betto, Fernando and Ivo help leftist organizations. However, they are ... See full summary »
Based upon the true story of Olga Benário, the German-born wife of Brazilian communist leader Luís Carlos Prestes. During the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945) she was arrested and... See full summary »
Short stories revolving around a bar and a hotel in Recife, unveil a mosaic of exotic characters living in the Brazilian underground: a butcher married with an evangelical woman, a ... See full summary »
Former political activist receives compensation money for her husband's disappearance during Brazilian dictatorship. Now, she is able to afford a new home. While moving, however, a visitor obligates her to review her entire history.
Eduardo Coutinho was filming a movie with the same name in the Northeast of Brazil, in 1964, when there came the military coup. He had to interrupt the project, and came back to it in 1981,... See full summary »
Tite de Lemos,
In the great restaurant of life, there are those who eat and those who get eaten. Raimundo Nonato finds an alternative way, a life of his own: he cooks in order to survive and find a place ... See full summary »
A documentary about the controversial businessman Hennig Boilesen Jr. and his involvement with the military regime as one of its most enthusiastic supporters, financing it and participating... See full summary »
Hennig Boilesen Jr.,
Fernando Henrique Cardoso,
Brazil in the early 70s. Miguel, Eloi, Osvaldo and Paolo take part in armed attacks against the military dictatorship. They pay a heavy price with torture and arrest. Today the four friends... See full summary »
During the period of 1964 to 1985, Brazil lived a military dictatorship. In the 60s, the Dominican friars Tito, Betto, Fernando and Ivo help leftist organizations. However, they are arrested and tortured by the despicable Chief of DOPS Fleury, who is trying to arrest the leader Carlos Marighella. Tito and Fernando do not resist the violent torture and betray Marighella, who is ambushed and executed by Fleury. In 1973, in France, the exiled friar Tito is unable to overcome his trauma and depression and commits suicide in the Convent of La Tourette. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The true story of four Dominican friars -- Tito (Caio Blat), Fernando (Léo Quintão), Ivo (Odilon Esteves) and Betto (Daniel de Oliveira) -- who, in the late 1960s, were actively engaged in helping left-wing organizations in radical actions against the ultra-violent Brazilian military regime. Denounced, arbitrarily arrested and savagely tortured in military and police precincts, they were subsequently prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated, but one of them would not survive: Tito, exiled in France, paranoid, depressed and unable to cope with the terrifying memories of physical and psychological torture, committed suicide in 1973, hanging himself from a tree in the Convent of La Tourette.
"Batismo de Sangue", based on Frei (friar) Betto's eponymous best-selling account of the facts, is yet another piece in the mosaic Brazilian filmmakers are trying to assemble concerning the tragic, traumatic "lead years" of the military regime in Brazil (1964-1985). The fact that Betto, Fernando and Ivo are still alive and have collaborated with director/writer Helvécio Ratton in the film gives "Batismo" a first-hand, I've-been-there legitimacy. Regrettably, the film turns out to be an honest, serious, well-intentioned mess.
The main problem with "Batismo" is the shapeless, confusing screenplay: the facts are thrown on the screen with no links, preparation, dramatic criteria. Ratton doesn't know how to select his material: instead of choosing a few characters and situations and developing them, he sticks in loads of absolutely expendable scenes and characters (e.g. the journalist who's in love with Betto, Tito's sister, etc) and chops everything up to the point of unintelligibility. You have to do the writers' work for them, figuring out who's who, what their connections are, establishing causes and effects, and filling in the narrative gaps.
The four main characters have no individual personalities, no back stories, we know nothing about them except that they are Dominican friars who somehow got caught up in the events. And it doesn't help that they all look alike, with their white habits, dark hair and thick glasses. We never get to understand WHY Tito sinks into paranoia and depression while the other three somehow get over their harsh experience. Likewise, the "evil" characters (the torturers) are laughable caricatures, devils just short of having horns and hoofs. We also have to deal with dozens of sketchy under-written characters -- friars, students, political activists, prison inmates, lawyers, judges, and the women in general -- who overcrowd the screen and make things even more confusing.
The time that could be devoted to building up the characters is spent on gruesome, graphic torture scenes. No doubt it's important to show to younger generations that, not so long ago, systematic torture was an institutionalized routine praxis of the Brazilian Military Government. But those scenes backfire: we know so little about the friars who are being tortured that all we can do is appreciate how realistic, disgusting and bloody it all looks -- in those scenes the film dangerously slips into the slasher/gore genre.
Naturally, the film is unavoidably Catholic: there are scenes of enlightening egalitarian sermons, soul-searching antiphonies and chantings, improvised masses in the filthy prison cells that melt down the hard hearts of the atheist Communist activists (but not the hearts of the eeeevil military, of course, though they were probably Catholic themselves), theological explanations about how St.Thomas Aquinas can be summoned to validate guerrillas, and how Communists and Dominicans are meant to be brothers deep down, since Jesus was a revolutionary activist who was also persecuted, tortured and murdered. These long scenes can be REALLY off-putting for non-Catholics.
There are other disappointments: the cast is under-used, with fine actors like Daniel de Oliveira and Ângelo Antônio especially wasted. Caio Blat seems, like us, totally lost about Tito: he jumps from goofy, joyous innocence to faithless, depressive paranoia with nothing in-between. First-timers Léo Quintão and Odilon Esteves are unimpressive and Marku Ribas as Marighella is an embarrassment. Worst of all is scenery-chewing Cássio Gabus Mendes as the tough big boss torturer Fleury: he yells so much his voice goes into spasms. The music by the great experimental musician Marco Antonio Guimarães is disappointingly ineffective: it just isn't film music. On the positive side, Lauro Escorel's cinematography is very accomplished, as usual, and Adrian Cooper's art direction is suitably evocative of that era.
I wish I could recommend "Batismo de Sangue": it's a serious enterprise full of good intentions -- but that's about it. However, it will perhaps urge some viewers to read Frei Betto's far more comprehensive and coherent book, so the film's not a complete waste of everybody's efforts.
15 of 16 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?