O Exercício do Caos (The exercise of chaos) narrates in tones of an existentialist thriller the story of an authoritarian and grim father living with his three teenage daughters in an old farm of cassava in the countryside of the Brazilian state of Maranhão, very, very far from the town. The family shares the absence of the mother - allegedly disappeared - and deals with the dictates of a strange and strict taskmaster which explores the family while keeps himself stalking the innocence of the girls, which in turn are divided between the illusion of childhood and the cruel reality of their lives. While the foundation of the family crumbles more and more, the weakened characters, stand on the threshold between reason and madness, between chaos and faith. Written by
O Exercício do Caos (The Exercise of Chaos) is the first feature film from the awarded director of short films Frederico Machado (Vela ao Crucificado 2009). The film was appointed as one of the 5 most anticipated Brazilian movies for 2013. See more »
This first film by Frederico Machado is a good try at observational storytelling, but in the end it became a frustrating audiovisual experience to me. As the film opens, the first shot (early at night, a church with three crosses, a man enters the church and sees a woman sitting on a bench) evokes those 1960s poignant dramas about poverty and oppression in the Brazilian Northeast, embellished with folkloric overtones and magical suggestions it even takes place in the state of Maranhão, where Glauber Rocha made a short documentary in 1966. But then one, two, three beautiful mestizo girls with shiny hairs treated in beauty salons and designer clothes passing for poor garments, appear as peasants, play "ring around the roses", work very hard in their father's rustic yucca flour processor, and are lusted by the only men in sight, while the younger sister is visited by the ghost of her mother. As you try to process all this in your mind, the music of Béla Bartok and Alfred Schittke fills your ears every now and then, clashing with the images, but harmonizing with the secret plan of the highly educated director, producer, writer and cinematographer Machado: secret because it becomes a cryptic experience, but also because if you read what he intended to do (as descriptors, he mentions chess, sadism, Soviet cinema Russian in the original text, Dadaism, obscurantism, dogma, minimalism, sexuality, spirituality, universality, etcetera), he aimed way too high and his intentions were not transferred to the screen as he expected (and claims). As far as I am concerned, all the effort had an unfortunate estrangement effect on me, not in the way Bertolt Brecht proposes, but out of indifference to characters and situations. As a very beautiful poem by poet Nauro Machado (Frederico's father) closed the story, with images that may or may not have any connection to the verses or the early proceedings (it may work depending on your willingness to embrace the whole thing), I felt that this «existentialist thriller» had better intentions than results.
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