Tuesday, August 14, 2007

City Of God / Cidade de Deus (2002)

A contemporary Brazilian film from director Fernando Meirelles, based on a true story that explores life in the lower-class quarters of the notorious city, Rio de Janerio. The film, adapted from the earlier novel by Paulo Lins, tells the parallel life stories of two boys, Rocket and L'il Dice, over a twenty-plus year period. Although they both grow up amongst the violence of the 'city of god', each takes a different path, which cross at several points.

It is a powerful and haunting film that takes the audience right into the streets of the 'City of God' housing project in Rio de Janerio, exploring it's stories and shocking way of life. I found the film incredibly impacting and a lot of this is owed to the direction, narrative and cinematic techniques employed. As is Lins book, the film employs an effective structure that allows the different periods in time to be effortlessly weaved together. Meirelles employs several succesful cinematic techniques including the use of split screen, accelerated movement and rewinding the action, all of which ensure effective communication of the narrative and add to the tension and impact of the film. The grainy, sun-drenched camera work only adds further to the film's atmosphere.

The opening sequence (above) is impacting and memorable. Knives are sharpened on stone, vegetables chopped by knives, a chicken loses its head, the feathers are plucked, the guitars strum and the mood is set. The relevance of this scence and it's consequence is not realised until the end of the film - Meirelles has kept the narrative structure of City of God similar throughout as the film flicks between the 60's and 80's, back and forward in time, with the two parallel stories crossing and coliding at several points.

Although, whilst the narrative does revolve around the two men, the film tells the stories of many others who are all interconnected, providing a deeply engaging plot. It is the exploration of the other characters that gives us, the audience, a greater insight and understanding of life in the slums of Rio de Janerio, of the events that happen, why the characters behave as they do and indeed, offers an examination of human behaviour.

By delving below the surface of this story, Meirelles has produced a powerful and thrilling film that takes us down the alley of cruel reality with technical prowess that conveys the place, the events and the people that are within it.

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