Port of Boxes

Sergio Sister, 1970, ecoline and crayon on paper, pencil and felt-tip pen, 32x45 cm
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By ROBERTO NORITOMI*

Commentary on the film by Paulo César Saraceni

All hope must be abandoned when entering the village of Porto das Caixas. Paulo César Saraceni warns right at the beginning of his film. The encounter between Lúcio Cardoso and Oswaldo Goeldi, under the eyes of Mário Carneiro and the melancholic chords of Tom Jobim, could not be different. O traveling initial reveals, in the foggy darkness, the traces of immobility and despondency. Life congealed forever in the utensils and ornaments lined against the worn wall; the small, deserted train station submerged in shadows. The meager light barely accompanies that solitary being, who walks bent over against the cold. A condemnation weighs on him.

From the port, nothing can be seen, not even the river. The ruins covered with moss and taken over by bushes are witnesses of some bonanza of days gone by. Now Porto das Caixas is a place fallen from time, closed in on itself; stagnant, sickly like stagnant water. There are no stories, there are no names. It doesn't matter if something happened or didn't happen. Things drag on. The present is a captivity without justification or prospects. Everyone is trapped in lethargy. The train passes periodically, but nothing happens. The station operates on empty. In fact, everything there operates in a vacuum. You don't see the economic gear or the political struggle. That is no longer a fact of reality. It's a state of mind.

Immersed in this drowsiness, lives a miserable and ill-advised couple. She sneaks out with her lover; he is rudimentary and violent. The relationship is harsh, without affection. But there is no guilt or pity; moral judgment is absent. It doesn't matter what led them to this deterioration. The fact, however, is that something tense surrounds the hovel where they live. The husband is the very embodiment of fixity; he blends in with the village and that unhealthy climate. The lover too. The wife, on the contrary, is the discordant note. She longs for freedom and change. Her intention is to break the circle and leave.

In an eminently male, patriarchal order, that woman emerges as an active and haughty figure. Her position is one of resistance and confrontation with those men driven by instinct and tradition. “I don't belong to anyone”, she reiterates in the face of the aspirations of possession that she suffers from her husband and her lover. This disagreement gains imagery amplitude in a scene in the second sequence, when, intimidated, the wife approaches her husband and, impassive, locks her eyes with his. Framed face to face, he looks down and retreats to the kitchen, like an army on the run, while she follows behind and stands in the doorway, watching him victoriously.

This confrontational posture will be repeated throughout the film, in scenes whose “markings” are given by the wife's movements within the visual field. Deep down, she is the one who sets up and leads the narrative. The point of view is always hers. It is she who provides the pleasure. And even when they try to subdue her, through violence, as in the two scenes where she is slapped, she puts herself back in front of the camera and resumes the leading role. Her bodily jouissance is not taken from her. Likewise, her conscience is unsubdued; it is she who poses the fundamental and disturbing question for her husband (and for everyone else): “why don't you leave me?”. Faced with the appeal of reason, the bestial onslaught rises as a response. There is no doubt, with her husband, and with everyone else, there is no possibility of an argument. Only the wife has control over instances of desire and rationality.

And there being no argument, there remains only the fatal, conclusive, and liberating act, resulting from anger and calculation. It wasn't enough for her to run away, it was necessary to break up definitively. Hence the extreme use of the axe, which will allow you to cut that archaic and decrepit yoke by the roots. In a single blow, the most lacerating and daring that the history of Brazilian cinema has seen so far, the woman, no longer the wife, opens her way to light and pulsating life. Her destination is outside, because there is only hope when leaving Porto das Caixas and that dark enclosure. And it is in this final sequence, in which Irma Alvarez says an unappealable “I will” and continues balancing on the rails, that Saraceni frees herself from Goeldi and Lúcio Cardoso, and jumps from a certain poetic realism to a cinema of a new matrix. .

port of boxes it was an important step in the construction of Cinema Novo, which brought, in that first half of the 1960s, so many other strong and disturbing female figures.

*Roberto Noritomi He holds a PhD in sociology of culture from USP

Reference

Port of Boxes

Brazil, 1962, 115 minutes

Directed by: Paulo César Saraceni

Cast: Irma Álvarez, Reginaldo Faria, Paulo Padilha

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDn_kBpn6yA

 

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