Barravento: Calamity Crush

Glauber Rocha's film Barravento is an impressionistic tale of a fisherman's village in Brazil and the paralyzation that ensues as the denizens of the village try to confront the necessary evils of modernity versus the reassuring interpretations of the surviving African religions they continued, namely the candomble and umbanda religions. This impressionism is somewhat unclear in intent as the film was begun by a black director, Luis Paulino de Santos who was openly supportive of the candomble faith and then handed over to Glauber Rocha a Marxist who certainly influenced the narrative of the film to imply the nature of religion as an opiate. Even though the spoken narrative may speak ill of the religion, the imagery supports the old customs and gives them a vibrant appeal combined with the driving rhythmic score. Furthermore, Rocha's sensitivity to the proletarian class as expressed through control of the camera self defeated his goal of painting the evils of blind faith. The practioners of candomble, unlike the majority of catholic Brazil, did not have a dichotomous approach to culture and religion. For the candomble people the two were inseparable and therefore Rocha's attempt was undermined by the strength of the images of the people carrying out their religion, entertainment, and work in one process. The lasting impression of a struggle then is not in religion versus practical realism but deeper still in the process of confronting the conversion to modernity from a traditional standpoint. This struggle is a political one and captures the essence of a struggle that exists in every country from past times to present. Firmino, the returning villager from the city best symbolizes the struggle. All throughout the film he preaches of the advantages of the city and adopting the dress of the West, yet he has returned to his origins to seek shelter from Guardians of the West who judge him for crimes of 'subversion.' Moreover in his struggle to catalyze the villagers' actions he employs the voodoo of his lover Cota to strike down Aruan, the village hero. Better still is the fact that in fight sequences Firmino resorts back to his traditional style of fighting, capoiera. Capoeira is an interesting form of combat as it intentionally wastes movement and theatrically tries to summon various spiritual energies to sustain the duration of the fight more as a test of willpower than of physical prowess. The scene in which Firmino bests Aruan in a capoeira bout can be read that Aruan has lost his willpower and can no longer be certain of traditional spirituality as it has just cost him the life of a friend. In contrast, Firmino while trying to prove the disadvantages of faith uses an expression of faith to defeat Aruan. In this way the film reaffirms tradition as valid and suggests that in must continue alongside and in spite of modernity if man is to survive.


Last Updated on 02/02/00
By JR Kerr
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