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Commentary on the film directed by Maria Alché and Benjamín Naishtat

“History repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy, the second as a farce” (Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte).

Does art imitate life or the opposite? In certain cases, cinematographic works make a leap that our eyes do not readily notice, only the possibility of analyzing works of great sensitivity to sharpen our senses of the dimension of a structural crisis and its traces of a devastated earth[I] by capital. The definitions that can be found in such depth are revealed in countless phases, transmitted by a tragedy or in certain contours by a comedy. In this last option, directors Maria Alché and Benjamín Naishtat found a way to explain the Argentine case and its condition regarding political, economic and social aspects with the sample of Puan (2023).

An internationally award-winning film that portrays the life of a group of professors linked to the Department of Philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) through the story of Marcelo Pena, who seeks a place in the chair of his former mentor who recently passed away, but his plans do not go as expected after the return of another teacher, Rafael Sujarchuk, presenting himself in a more charismatic and kinder way for the position. Therefore, Marcelo will need to work even harder to compete for the position.

The plot revolves around this dispute, but the outside view is what draws the most attention when presenting to the public an Argentina driven by crises and precarious conditions. Upon returning from Germany, after 20 years teaching abroad, Rafael shows himself as a foreigner in his own land when he is unable to glimpse at first the country's condition and its economic disaster, something that for Marcelo is part of his daily life. . In addition to being a professor at the University of Buenos Aires, to organize the monthly accounts, Marcelo needs to take private classes and participate in external projects to organize himself financially. Due to such dynamics, despair and frustration materialize in Marcelo and reverberate throughout the film. .

A work whose objectives were the classic Argentine comedy went further than this and presented a scenario very similar to other Latin American countries, leading to an investigation of its causes and consequences by demonstrating the precariousness of the teaching career and a clash between the neoliberal form which expands across the world, reaching the individual levels of the subject and private aspects of their life.

This last point is touched by the life dedicated to supporting the home, which causes Marcelo to be absent from moments with his family when he is unable to attend his son's presentation or pay attention to family issues,[ii] In view of this, we see the flight of dollars from Argentina and its situation as a portrait of this devastated land, to the point that Marcelo himself and his partner need to move from the center of Buenos Aires or continue, but in inhospitable places due to the cost of life. On the other hand, the situation at the university in which numerous scenes, whether at professors' meetings or student rallies, include delays and non-payment of professors, as well as funds for the maintenance of the college, are constant.

Thus, at one point after the end of the competition and the appointment of Rafael and not Marcelo to the vacancy, already on his first day as full professor, when he arrives in front of the University of Buenos Aires he gets a big surprise: the university is closed. due to the government crisis and the closure of ministries, including education, due to lack of funding. A great mobilization ensued and many teachers and students decided to hold a public class to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the situation.

The film goes beyond this, demonstrating many other aspects, but we can summarize them as: teaching precariousness, university crisis, economic, social and political crisis, increased inequalities and a strong appeal to the Argentineans' past of struggle and resistance. We could say that it is a scenario from current Argentina, but conveyed in comical aspects throughout the film. The lessons we learned from this are that the film somehow conveys, especially in its ending as a memorable and comical scene of Marcelo at a conference in Bolivia, that despite the hardships, the journey of the Argentine people, trying to reconcile themselves on this tightrope between neoliberalism and global catastrophes, becomes more latent through a melancholy breath and voice for the world.

A small excerpt from this film, but one that draws attention to us Brazilians, is that, mutatis mutandis, our direction points to the same scenario that we cannot think only through the periphery of capitalism, but in fact it is also a global condition. This symptom has been demonstrated since the collapse of the former Soviet Union from many angles, whether through the idea of ​​the collapse of modernization,[iii] or the idea of ​​Brazilianization of the world,[iv] Be that as it may, Brazil is no longer the country of the “modern future”, but is only integrated at this point due to the negative logic that the facts show us: Brazilianization in these terms refers to the increase in inequalities, precariousness of work relations, flattening from the poorest to the poverty line and environmental crises are equalized across all continents, in this scenario it is Brazil that offers the perfect model of how to manage neoliberalism for the center of capitalism.

In this form of administration, the ideals are in the contemporary place, but at the risk of destruction and global collapse. This historical condition is transposed in art in different ways, the condition is that, now it remains to be seen what measures will be taken and mobilized to think about a life, as Iztván Mezáros would say, beyond capital. The tragedy had already been announced a long time ago, denying the current condition is a farce that could have a high cost that we are already paying and that future generations will certainly have a great challenge ahead of them.

*Lucas Pereira da Paz Bezerra He is currently studying for a master's degree in Cultural Studies at EACH-USP.


Argentina, Germany, Brazil, France, Italy, 2023, 109 minutes
Direction and script: Maria Alché and Benjamín Naishtat
Cast: Marcelo Subiotto, Leonardo Sbaraglia. Andrea Frigerio.


[I] Thinking about this term through the dimension that Jonathan Crary demonstrates in his work, see: CRARY, Jonathan. Scorched Earth: Beyond the digital age, towards a post-capitalist world. Ubu Editora, 2023.

[ii] An aspect very well addressed in contemporary works, I think here of the works of the English filmmaker Ken Loach and especially his film Sorry We Missed You (2020).

[iii] KURZ, Robert. The Collapse of Modernization. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 2004.

[iv] This term was coined by sociologist Michael Lind – Brazilianization – in his book released in 1995 The Next American Nation, was also worked on by the German sociologist Ulrich Beck (1944-2015), but very well explored by Paulo Arantes to explain Brazil in recent times, see: Arantes, Paulo. The Brazilian fracture of the world: Visions of the Brazilian laboratory of globalization. São Paulo: Editora 34, 2023.

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