The title of late Brazilian director Glauber Rocha's third film is pretty much self-explanatory, representative of its significance, position and context in late-1960s Brazilian culture and society: a trance-like trip into the heart of a conflicted country. A heady, surreal chamber-piece deathbed fantasy about the eternal conflict between idealism and pragmatism, shaped as a thinly-veiled allegory of Brazil's political tumults, Terra em Transe is a rushing torrent of images and thoughts aimed squarely at its time and place, but whose lucid thoughts about politics and society remain valid and contemporary.

     Told in fragmented, roughly linear sequence using often handheld cameras in a reportage style, it chases enthusiastically freedom and truth in equally absolute terms, doing so by embodying them in its very freedom of form - like a savage, tropical Godard let loose with a fever on a jungle of dissonance and poetry. Nominally, this tells the tale of how, in a fictitious Latin-American country, left-wing poet Paulo Martins (Jardel Filho) sees his political ambitions and ideals systematically destroyed at the hands of backstage compromises and powerful industrial lobbying, eroded by the confrontation with real life. And the tale is shot by Mr. Rocha as if the gloriously heroic romanticism of the idealism ends up an equally gloriously heroic and gloriously disappointing romanticism, enveloping the viewer in a cacophony of sound, image and thought that batters him into submission while never alienating him (easy as it might be).

     Terra em Transe is not a perfect film by any means, but its flaws are part and parcel of its strength, its artistic and historical importance as a landmark for both the Brazilian "Cinema Novo" movement of the 1960s and the many global "new waves" of that decade.

Cast: Jardel Filho, Paulo Autran, José Lewgoy, Glaube Rocha, Paulo Gracindo, Hugo Carvana, Danuza Leão

Director and writer: Glauber Rocha
Cinematography: Luiz Carlos Barreto (b&w)
Music: Sérgio Ricardo
Designer and costumes: Paulo Gil Soares
Editor: Eduardo Escorel
Producer: Zelito Viana (Mapa Filmes, Difilm)
Brazil, 1967, 107 minutes

Screened: Cinemateca Portuguesa (Lisbon), September 7th 2012


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