The Inconfidentes

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Gilda de Mello e Souza*

Commentary on the historical film by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade

It is no longer necessary to draw attention to the exceptional qualities of The Inconfidentes, especially after the film was applauded in Venice and acclaimed by international critics. But it is always useful to meditate on the reasons that make it one of the most important works of Brazilian cinema, albeit subject to debate.

The third fiction film by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade proves one of the most curious characteristics of the director, which is to always take as a starting point a work consecrated by literature or a fact consecrated by History – poem by Drummond, mythical narrative by Mário de Andrade , image of Conjuração Mineira in the collective representation – to, through the creative process, go on contesting, uninterruptedly, what it had erected as the universe of its discourse.

Prisoner of tradition, Joaquim Pedro cannot, however, surrender to the respectful and submissive reading of the text. Unlike Robert Bresson who, in a similar situation, retreats into the shadows and lovingly protects the images he has freed from their verbal prison, Joaquim Pedro hides in the ambush in order, without being noticed, to leap more successfully on his prey. Is this attention made of vigilance, refusal to abandon and aggressiveness a form of love? Or the resentful revenge of a creator, aware that his imagination always acts parasitically on a first autonomous discourse?

Take, for example, the film The priest and the girl [1966]. The cinematographic adaptation of the work of Carlos Drummond de Andrade already offers, in the title of the film, the first, imperceptible departure from the original, insofar as it replaces the comma in the title of the poem: “The priest, the girl”, with the conjunction and: “The priest e The girl". This detail would not matter if other symptomatic substitutions were not soon followed, so radical that very little poetry has been preserved.

Drummond's story relates a love in the open air, in the open, a ghostly and homeless escape. It's not just the narrative of an impossible love, it's a fable, where the two lovers traverse a magical space and time and the feelings that are expressed are abstract, such as rebellion against the world, the feeling of transgression and punishment, of innocence and guilt. That's why time is infinite, space is limitless and the characters are general and fleshless: the priest, the girl, the persecutors, the reporters, the Bishop, the Devil, the virtual presence of God.

In Joaquim Pedro's version, on the contrary, space and time coalesce and the narrative settles on the distant town where the priest dismounts from his horse – a town described in detail, with its desolate houses and the procession of chubby saints. Feelings are no longer universal either; the director enriches the story with supplementary plots, defined with the sense of detail of a realistic novel, describing the unhappy love of the impotent man, who observes the beloved's window from a distance, or the erotic fixation of the old man for the little goddaughter he helped to raise.

There is also no more transcendence: everything has become present, corporeal, carnal and the drama derives from the group's interdictions to life's desires, such as the mutual attraction of the girl and the priest – both young and healthy – only allowing, in their stagnation of death , the girl's monstrous relationships with her godfather or with the impotent person. However, even replacing the ontological plane with the social plane, the film preserves the basic tension of the poem, which is recalled in the beautiful oxymoron, placed as an epigraph: “black love of white lace”.

That is, the tension remains between the values ​​of death and life, for which the director found some of his most beautiful metaphors, such as the priest's black boots stepping on the ground covered with daisies.

The case of Macunaima [1969] is even more significant of this peculiar method of Joaquim Pedro. For if in The priest and the girl it was possible to accept the realistic interpretation without difficulty, now the refusal of the fantastic appeared as nonsense, seeming to betray the very original intention of the work. What would remain of Macunaima hiding the magical aspect of the book? On the other hand, wouldn't cinema be the most appropriate expressive medium to convey the truth of the myth, insofar as it offered the creator the infinite possibilities of the camera, its dictatorial power to bend real space and clock time to its will. ? Only the montage would be able to approach the mythical story and organize the shots in conditions of order and time different from the normal ones, giving concrete form to the fantasy.

Indifferent to all these arguments, behold, Joaquim Pedro takes the most ungrateful path again. Shortly after finishing the script, asked about the solution he had chosen, he declared that looking for a transposition of the magical aspect of the novel in the film seemed to him an easy expedient, like a prestidigitator's trick. And we had to accept a Macunaima almost without jungle, urbanized, more or less subject to chronological time, forgotten about the hero's antics in Brazil, preserving from all the metamorphoses only the unforgettable one, from Grande Otelo becoming Príncipe Lindo.

I will not discuss here whether the solution chosen by the director was the most appropriate. But it is fair to recognize the intelligence of his interpretation, which was able to preserve some of the essential characteristics of the work – the excessiveness, the bad taste, the sadism, the grotesque, which were fixed in so many details as the clothes, the Dionysian feast at the end and, above all, the brutal use of color.

When Joaquim Pedro decided to film The Inconfidentes, I had the impression that I would, for the first time, work on a subject suited to his rational temperament. He had chosen a historical theme, therefore concrete, precise, an episode that had already been scrutinized by scholarly analysis and whose protagonists, although  if they were well fixed in the collective memory, they retained a sufficient degree of indetermination for the creative spirit to oscillate between a few possible truths. Now it would no longer be necessary to convert the fantastic into the real, as in the two previous cases. The subject was based on History and the scenario, contemporary with the events, was available to the photographer, in the monument city of Ouro Preto. As for the soundtrack, one could resort, with a wide margin of choice, to the production of the admirable Baroque school discovered by Curt Lange. It was very likely that Joaquim Pedro would make a period film.

We are aware of the difficulties faced by the The Inconfidentes, when, in their first contact with the city, they faced a landscape full of anachronisms, shredded by telephone wires. But I don't think it was problems of this type that led the director to accommodate the imagination in a movement inverse to that of other films and deliberately move away from realism, choosing an almost abstract spelling of the outside world. What is certain is that the Baroque will be forgotten.

The staggered beauty of Ouro Preto, so harmonious in the balance of its rhythms – horizontal windows, vertical church towers – will be reduced only to the beautiful photography of the signs. The windows of the houses close or take a sideways look at a corner of the garden; the rooms are stripped and only keep the essential items to situate the action; we would say a symbolic space like that of the painting of Three hundred. There is, however, a kind of usury in arranging the signs. The noises themselves are scarce and emblematic. For example, to warn us that Tiradentes is no longer in Vila Rica, but in the Court, when he encounters Silvério dos Reis in the poor courtyard of the house where he is staying, Joaquim Pedro limits himself to acting lightly in the recording of sounds, substituting the trampling of horse hooves by the incessant noise of carriages arriving from the street.

It is with the same economy of means that, in sequence 40, towards the end, he describes Gonzaga's farewell, without resorting to any of the usual clichés in scenes of this type: friends waving on the pier, travelers coming and going, the crew's hubbub lifting anchors, hoisting the sails on the mast. The indication of the script refers to “Gonzaga standing on the prow of a ship that advances out to sea”; the film's image will be even more relaxed, as there will not even be a “ship's bow” or “inside the sea”. — We will see the scarlet-clad figure of the poet silhouetted against the sky, and the open sea will only be figured, in an elliptical fashion, in the sway of the waves that makes the figure sway, in the wind that ruffles his hair and cape, as well as the farewell. to the beloved will be expressed in the Verses he recites: “I leave at last, beautiful Marília, / Tearing apart the gray air, / They will come on the wings of the winds / My sighs will look for you”.

It was the same resistance to ease that prevented Joaquim Pedro from using, for the musical background, one of the composers from the Minas Gerais school. Not even the carelessness of some song by Caldas Barbosa managed to overcome the siege of lucidity. His acid temperament preferred to stifle abandonment with the anachronism of “Aquarela do Brasil” by Ari Barroso and “Farolito Lindo” by Augustin Lara, stridently marking the distance he wanted to maintain in relation to events.

The cinematographic technique itself is dry, without flourishes. The camera generally captures the outside world in close-up shots, moving forward and backward, but it avoids the fanciful movements that other less policed ​​directors would certainly have used to accentuate the baroque atmosphere. The writing is restrained and the narrative chooses, especially in the central part, which is the best done, the sequence-shot in preference to the cut. In front of a fixed camera, inexorable as a witness, it is the characters who move, underlining with their movement the extremely important verbal debate. From time to time, in the acute moment of the dialogue, in the conspiracy or in the process, the protagonist is framed in close up and addresses the off-screen viewer, who is placed in another space and another time, requesting their judgment and adherence.

Having to choose between the various versions of Inconfidência, the director seems to have preferred the neutral and objective version of Devassa records. I don't think he did it motivated by a rigorous desire for the truth, but because the version of Cars it seemed to him the furthest away from the official one, the one that, built on the basis of Romanticism, had become established in textbooks and spread among the people. Even here, the attitude was not one of conformism, but of rebellion.

If we were to retrace the patient journey of Joaquim Pedro and Eduardo Escorel, consulting the historical documentation to elaborate the script – work that resulted in the absolutely exceptional dialogue of the film – we would see that it is, and is not, faithful to the letter of the process. There are almost no sentences in the script that are inauthentic, almost no episodes that did not happen; however, at each moment we perceive an alert intelligence that abbreviates the lines, merges the characters, deliberately chooses some characteristics, abandoning others, forces small chronological shifts. The result is a dialogue disengaged from the Cars and again reassembled according to a new and peculiar vision of the events and, above all, of the Arcadians.

There was also the problem of choosing the protagonists. The conspiracy involved, indirectly, a large number of people, who during the process were called to interrogations. The script reduced this very wide range, concentrating the action around a restricted group, a significant sample. In order not to overload the cast of clerics, for example, he merged the priests involved into a single character. In this way, Father José da Silva e Oliveira Rolim and Canon Luis Vieira da Silva disappeared after providing some elements to the composition of Father Carlos Corrêa de Toledo, vicar of São José, who came to represent the presence of the Church in the Inconfidência.

In relation to the speeches, there were also many licenses. The dialogue about the spill, which in the film takes place between Tomás Antônio Gonzaga and the Viscount of Barbacena, actually took place between the former and Intendant Francisco Gregório Pires Monteiro Bandeira, as stated in the judge's second interrogation. But the most radical departure from historical truth is that of sequence 39, when Joaquim Pedro makes D. Maria I, who was in Portugal, pronounce the sentence in the presence of the inconfidentes, in the prison on the island of Cobras.

The evident intention of the narrative is, however, to focus the public's attention on four main characters: the ensign and the three Arcadians, whose deaths are narrated, successively, at the beginning of the film: death of Cláudio, hanging himself with his own garter on the cubicle at Casa dos Contos, in Vila Rica, even before the opening of the process; death of Alvarenga in Ambaca, Africa, mixed with cholera patients; death of Gonzaga who, in exile in Mozambique, feels torn between Africa and Brazil and appears, in delirium of agony, trying to cross the ocean; Tiradentes' death, alluded to in the synecdoche of the bloodied room where the blowfly walks. In this way, the film travels in the opposite direction to true time, going from the prison or gallows to the conspiracy, from there to the trial, to reach the great leap of glory in the final sequences.

But will The Inconfidentes focus on the central characters in a really objective way? At first sight, one has the impression that yes, and the narrative presents the protagonists one by one with great care, defining them as in a portrait, not only by their external appearance, physiognomy, expression, manners, gestures, but by their psychological characterization. and even by certain details of the landscape. There is an absolute iconographic clarity in this presentation, and as the poets say in their verses, word and image are united in a coextensive way.

Let's start with the profile of Inácio José de Alvarenga Peixoto. The initial sketch, suggested in sequences 7, from “Lição de piano”, and 15, from “Quarto do caso”, is mainly inspired by the book Romance of Inconfidence by Cecília Meirelles; but from the scenes of the conspiracy and the interrogation the elements will be taken from the Devassa records. The script is not always able to stylistically merge the two very diverse sources that served as support, and there are moments when Cecília's artistic language, permeated with images and metaphors, clashes with the dry writing of the process.

However, the admirable game of actor Paulo César Pereio manages to give coherence to the final portrait of a weak, indecisive, pedantic man, with a great sense of caste, who seeks to mask behind a certain cynicism the desire to save his own skin. There is almost no gap between fiction and reality, and in the film Alvarenga is essentially the same person who, in the second interrogation, dated January 14, 1790, urged by the inquirers, decides to “narrate everything with purity” and he denounces, first, Francisco de Paula, then Tomás António and Father Carlos, then Cláudio and finally the “ugly and frightened officer”, that is, Lieutenant Joaquim José da Silva Xavier.

The characterization of Cláudio Manuel da Costa and Tomás António Gonzaga also had other sources, in addition to the Devassa records. The figure of the former coincides very much with the interpretation that Antonio Candido proposes in Formation of Brazilian Literature, when, based on Gaston Bachelard, he interprets his “fixation with the rocky scenery of his native land”, manifested in an “imagination of stone”. The “rough and hard stone”, the “seedless cliffs”, the “inflexible cliff” appear obsessively in his lyre and the critic stresses that “when he wants to locate a character, he is placed near or on a rock”.

This is exactly how the sequence no. V frames the poet and the director knew how to transform, with admirable psychological acuity, the stony scene into a simile of imminent suffering: “From these cliffs nature made / The cradle in which I was born: Oh who cared / Who was raised among such hard stones / A tender soul, a chest without hardness”.

The tragedy of this man of great prominence in Vila Rica, “instructed in jurisprudence”, a consecrated poet, who at the age of 60 cowers before justice, becomes demoralized and betrays his best friends, “voluntarily hanging himself by their hands” (as he says the medical report), is admirably interpreted by Fernando Torres. Sequence 21's poignant monologue skillfully utilizes Claudio's responses to the self-question. The version is abbreviated and, no doubt, moved; nevertheless, the authors of the script – as they had already done in sequence 7, with Alvarenga and the music teacher – manage to maintain the necessary distance from the facts and draw attention to certain faded lines in the background.

The sentence with which Cláudio Manuel refers to Tiradentes is, in this sense, skilfully highlighted, revealing the clear class feeling that separates the Arcadians – all from the ruling class – from their more modest companion in the conspiracy: “A man of such weak talent that it would never serve to try anything with him... Dr. Gonzaga also annoyed him and warned me that he was a fanatic…”.

The portrait that the film traces of Tomas Antonio Gonzaga is, unlike the previous ones, above all an interpretation. the sequence no. 6, designated in the script as “Cantada de Gonzaga em Marília”, shows the judge walking with the bride in the field covered with flowers. The pleasant landscape has a double function: to introduce us to the space of Arcadia, largely glossed over by Renaissance art, and to accentuate the poet’s careless state of mind, which is also expressed in the verses he recites: “Let’s do it, yes, let’s do it, sweet beloved / Our brief, happiest days / As long as merciless destinies / Do not turn their angry faces against us. / Let us adorn our foreheads with flowers / And let us make a soft bed of hay; / Let's tie ourselves, Marília, in a tight bond, / Let's enjoy the pleasure of love”.

This first sketch of the character Joaquim Pedro seems to have been based on the rather fanciful description that Eduardo Frieiro makes of Gonzaga's appearance, as it accentuates the worldly side of the judge, his concern for clothes, the enjoyable aspect of the mature man in love with the teenager aged 17. Incidentally, the first and second interrogations, which the script also makes use of. corroborate the image of a man “so peaceful (…) in his spirit” that he can amuse himself composing Odes and “embroidering a dress for his wedding”. The unfolding of the narrative moves away from this first pastoral design and sequences 8 and 9 (“Cláudio’s Room” and “Café da Manhã”) already put us in contact with the most serious poet of the Chilean Letters: “Amigo Doroteu, dear friend , / Open your eyes, yawn, stretch out your arms…”.

In sequences 14 (“Visita de Gonzaga ao Visconde”) and 22 (“Interrogatório de Gonzaga”), the script relies exclusively on the Cars and the dialogue begins to accentuate the extraordinary astuteness and skill of the magistrate before the inquirers.

Therefore, from a certain moment on, the sources that Joaquim Pedro and Eduardo Escorel were inspired to compose the portrait of Gonzaga were, above all, the Cars; but the documents were always read verbatim and never between the lines. For that reason alone, it was possible to retain in memory only the image of the agile reasoning jurist, capable of confusing opponents in his own field. Luis Linhares masterfully interpreted this superficial aspect of the character, but he could not give us a convincing composition of Tomás António because the script did not penetrate the deep meaning of his behavior.

I am not unaware that artistic verisimilitude is different from the truth of the facts and that, therefore, even in a historical film, dealing with real characters, Joaquim Pedro had the right to impose his personal vision on us. What I want to discuss is why he adopted a greater distance in relation to Gonzaga than in relation to the other protagonists, resuming, at this point, the perspective put in vogue by the theater, from Arena Conta Tiradentes. As a “transmission circuit” seems to be establishing itself between cinema and theater, where, on the pretext of debating the role of the intellectual in moments of political crisis, the greatness of Tomás António Gonzaga is systematically forgotten in the interrogations, I would like to recall certain facts, which give him back his true stature.

When Gonzaga was arrested, he was 44 years old and one of the most important men in Vila Rica. Transferred from Minas to Ilha das Cobras, in Rio de Janeiro, he will remain incarcerated throughout the process. The first interrogation to which he was subjected took place on November 17, 1789, in the prison; the second, on February 3 of the following year, at the same location; the third, the 1st. August 1791, in the “House of the Third Order of São Francisco”, in Rio, and the fourth, three days later, on August 4, in the same place. During that long period in which he suffered, already mature and highly regarded, the discomfort of prison, the humiliation of the trial, the hurt of seeing himself betrayed by his closest friends, the sadness of separation from his fiancée, — he remains adamant, systematically denying that he had part of the conspiracy and just as firmly declaring his ignorance of his friends' activity. For further clarification, I would like to take from the documents of the time some evidence of his attitude, such as the confrontation with his companions, carried out in the second interrogation.

On February 3, 1790, in order to clear up certain doubts, the investigators brought before Tomás António three of the inconfidentes who, to a greater or lesser extent, had denounced him: Canon Luis Vieira da Silva, vicar Carlos Corrêa de Toledo and his cousin and friend Inácio José de Alvarenga Peixoto. Contrary to what one might suppose, the confrontation does not dismantle the judge, who remains irreducible, while the other prisoners, one by one, deliver the points.

The canon, who during his second interrogation (3/1/1790) had conceded, after some reluctance, that Gonzaga had taken part in the preliminary understandings of the Conjuration, in the presence of the poet, he contradicted himself, insisting “that he could not affirm anything of the guilt of the Defendant”. As for the vicar, who in his second statement (7/11/1789) had stated that he did not have an opinion on the matter because he “never spoke to him on such a matter”, concedes before the Judge that he “supposed to have declared to some people that the Respondent was entered into uprising”.

When his turn came, Alvarenga would act with his usual bluntness, declaring that although he had stated that “during the conversation that took place at the House of Lieutenant-Colonel Francisco de Paula Freire, he had also been assisting the Respondent and that because he was in this intelligence, he had said so [… ] if you do not dare to affirm it as something without a doubt because it could be wrong, but, as this fact was passed between some six people by the saying of the others, the doubt will be able to be cleared”. That is, in the presence of Gonzaga, he withdraws, he admits that he may have been mistaken, and he manages to get out of trouble by throwing six more witnesses into the fire.

The confrontation reveals, therefore, that either Gonzaga was not involved in the conspiracy (which is possible), or that his authority and decency disarm the companions who had weakened. After the confrontation with his friends, he is still subjected to two interrogations. Now, even after having personally certified their disloyalty, especially the unforgivable attitude of Alvarenga – the most committed and known to be one of the leaders of the uprising – he does not accuse him. On the third  interrogation, when asked “if he had taken a better deal to tell the truth”, he replied “that he could not change his mind to confess a crime he did not commit; and that if there is any proof against him, being aware of it, he will destroy it with foundations, solid, and true”.

Urged again to tell the truth he was hiding, as his statements did not coincide with those of his friends, he does not lose his cool and replies “that the truth is what he has been saying; and that he will destroy as false, all statements, that any people say, even if they are his friends”. Finally, in the fourth interrogation (4/8/1791), asked if the people with whom he hypothetically spoke would not have the desire to form a State in the Captaincy of Mines, he replied “that he had the moral certainty that they would not be capable of committing similar attack”.

Gonzaga's unwavering resistance to the inquirers, during the year and a half that the process lasted, has a profound meaning that was not highlighted by the film: it represents the belief in the power of intelligence and the invincible strength of words. Among all the inconfidentes, only he knew how to handle this dangerous double-edged weapon with cold blood, which can either save or lose us; only he managed to keep the words from saying more than he intended to say, from revealing what was imperative to keep secret; therefore, in his mouth they remain neutral, exterior and instrumental, like the rapier in the fencer's hand.

When Cláudio Manuel speaks, in the panic of his first contact with justice, the emotional words drag him into the abyss, letting the sinner's sense of guilt come to the fore. In Alvarenga's testimonies, they seem empty like the erudite quotes that cover up his opportunism; they are the smokescreen behind which the owner of mines hides cautiously. Words do not present the best picture of the generous ensign, who is clumsy and ignorant of their use. Unable to measure his virulent and treacherous power, Tiradentes is lost because he talks too much. And if we were to surprise his words in the Files, closing our ears to the beautiful phrases that History has preserved, we would see that they do not reveal heroism, but insecurity: “I don’t have the figure, nor the stamina, nor the wealth to be able to persuade a people…” .

By turning away from Gonzaga's irreproachable behavior during interrogations, praising only Tiradentes' admirable courage during torture, cinema adhered, as theater had already done, to the “workerist” view of events. It was a possible prospect, but an extremely partisan one. It did not seem to match Joaquim Pedro's skeptical and rational temperament, which tended, as already noted at the beginning of this analysis, towards critical reviews of subjects; nor with the approach supported by the Cars, which was supposed to re-establish a neutral view of history.

As Joaquim Pedro illuminated the great Alferes, leaving Gonzaga's symmetrical resistance as an intellectual in the shadows, the episode became clearer and more readable but extremely impoverished, because it concealed one of the terms of the discussion. In a way, the unrestricted appreciation of the Alferes meant a return to the official interpretation of Inconfidência and to the stereotyped concept of heroism that, in the beginning, the director seems to have wanted to avoid.

The structure of the film was affected by this indecision of directorial lines and this is evident in the aforementioned sequence 39. The episode of the queen's untimely visit is entirely invented, a very rare resource in Joaquim Pedro's creative process, where the imagination avoids cutting the links with the reality. It is true that most of the statements that support it are authentic, but as they were removed from one context and inserted into another, they radically changed their meaning. In addition, there was an intentional choice of passages: Gonzaga and Alvarenga recite verses in praise of the government, Tiradentes shouts his sacrificial sentence in the intervals and D. Maria I utters in an exasperated voice the sentence she had decreed.

The montage, confronting such disparate texts in the same fictitious space, makes the poetry of the Arcadians subservient, and the ensign's words admirable. And the audience is forced to read the scene unequivocally, as being the contrast, in the face of the brutal condemnation, of the unworthy behavior of the poets and full of Tiradentes' patriotism.

The solution found by Joaquim Pedro was didactic and perhaps efficient, but it went against the line chosen by the film in two more points. Because when focusing on Gonzaga and Alvarenga, on their knees before the queen – therefore leveled in the same cowardly attitude – the director took the poets' behavior as global, typical of intellectuals. And so he forgot that in the course of the narrative he avoided this simplistic perspective and described the Arcadians as individuals (in appearance, psychology, social situation), capable, therefore, of giving particular responses to events. Secondly, fearing that the scene would not be read as he wanted, Joaquim Pedro made the speech too explicit, pushing the colors to the point of the grotesque and introducing a violent rupture in the film that obscured its wisely nuanced tone.

Perhaps it will be clearer what I want to say if we compare this episode with the solution that the script gave to a side discussion, interspersed in the film and referring to the black problem. It is a small speech that can go unnoticed, because it does not interfere directly with the central plot and is exposed intermittently, in four times. It begins at the moment of the piano lesson (sequence 7), when master José Manuel scolds the student Maria Efigênia and, surprised by Bárbara Heliodora, is called by her to her servile condition. The episode, which is true, is reported in detail in the statements of one of the witnesses in the process and serves to demonstrate the social status, in Colonia, of mulatto music masters, who even if they were talented were treated by the ruling class as slaves.

The second moment of the discussion is located in sequence 8, when we see Gonzaga entering Cláudio's bedroom and waking him up with the verses of the Chilean Cards. The scene focuses on Cláudio lying down, with his black lover beside him. Seeing Gonzaga enter, the slave gets up naked from the bed, slides smoothly into the shadows and stops in a corner of the room, tying her white skirt around her body. During the entire dialogue between the friends, the woman does not utter a single word and no one addresses her or greets her with the quickest glance. For whites, it's like an object among the furniture, an object of pleasure that the daylight has just overshadowed; love does not confer a greater privilege on the Negro than art.

The third moment is at the end of sequence 13, when Tiradentes, running out of money and running from the police, decides to sell the slave. The episode consists of Cars and it is used in the film to, completing the previous sequences, demonstrate how the people themselves (Tiradentes) put black people on the sidelines of the revolutionary process, in the same way that the ruling class (Bárbara and Cláudio) expels them from the artistic and loving process. The peak of this process of alienation is the moment of hanging, when the ignominious task is entrusted to a black man. The exchange of pardons between the victim and the tormentor finally moves the Lieutenant, who is a man of the people, to the level of a pariah. But the die has already been cast and the violent conclusion of this reasoning in four stages is the shot of the execution with the beautiful image of the executioner, riding over the body of the condemned man.

The discourse on the condition of the man of color, which Joaquim Pedro developed in the film in a fractional and casual way, resulted, in my view, both from an ideological and artistic point of view, much happier than the intentional and overloaded discussion of the D sequence. Maria I. By the way, the best moments of The Inconfidentes they are those in which the meaning of the text remains hidden, undetermined, revealing with difficulty the series of hidden connections.

Sometimes, for example, the film explores with great skill and a sense of humor the factual use of the image, to suggest identification with the present and install a second degree reading in the scene; this is the case of sequences 12 and 34, which narrate the preparations for the conspiracy. The dialogue between the inconfidentes about the flag and Francisco de Paula's tirade about joining the troops – said impeccably by Carlos Kroeber – accentuate this latent meaning with great persuasive force, and the episode ends up assuming the aspect of a parody of more serious facts. gifts and family.

At other times Joaquim Pedro indulges in brilliant and unexpected ellipses, without providing us with further explanations. What does he want to assert when the narrative jumps, without any continuity, from the hero's sacrifice to the civic commemoration of April 21st? Is he wanting to repeat, through image, therefore another expressive means, what he had already said through words, with Alvarenga's disenchanted phrase: “Heroes only reach glory after being beheaded”? And what does the applause mean at the end, which starts in the past, when “the body spins, held by the rope”, and explodes frantically in the first images of the current affairs film? Are the people applauding Tiradentes' sacrifice or, on the contrary, his triumphant entry into posterity?

the strength of The Inconfidentes, as in other Joaquim Pedro films, is not to suggest answers to all the questions, but to leave the questions open, sowing the text with uncertainties. It's not flattering the image, forcing the voice to the point of shouting and choosing the broad and theatrical gesture. The destiny of Joaquim Pedro de Andrade's art is, on the contrary, to rely on the evocative power of the image and on the public's freedom to apprehend meaning in the apparent disorder of forms.

*Gilda de Mello e Souza (1919-2005) was a professor of aesthetics at the Department of Philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of reading exercises (Publisher 34).

Article originally published in the magazine Speech (


The Inconfidentes (

Brazil, 1972, 82 minutes

Directed by: Joaquim Pedro de Andrade

Screenplay: Joaquim Pedro de Andrade and Eduardo Escorel

Music: Marlos Nobre

Cast: José Wilker, Luis Linhares, Paulo César Pereio, Fernando Torres, Carlos Kroeber.

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  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank