The Surrealistic Brazil of "Redeemer" By Carlos Augusto Brandão

in 55th Berlinale

by Carlos Augusto Brandão

Redeemer (Redentor), a fiction with a surrealistic tinge directed by Claudio Torres, was shown in the opening of the prestigious Panorama Section of the 55th Berlinale. It received a good reception from the spectators that crowded two screening rooms of the Cinemax.

The film tells the story of journalist Célio (Pedro Cardoso) and his family, a credulous bunch made victim of a corrupt real estate investor (José Wilker). Célio’s father had contracted, 17 years before, the purchase of an apartment at the Paraíso (“Paradise”) Condominium: paid religiously all the installments but never received the flat. All of his economies, as well as his dreams of having a home where he and his family could live went down the drain. By coincidence or not, Célio was a close childhood friend of Otávio (Miguel Falabella), son of the unscrupulous businessman. But both are now in deep litigation: the journalist wants to revenge his family and on the sideline to promote a crusade against his former friend, who had inherited both his father’s business and bad character.

The film, which director Claudio Torres defines as a family project, appears to be just that: the cast includes Fernando Torres, Fernanda Montenegro and Fernanda Torres — respectively Claudio’s father, mother and sister. Montenegro is a worldwide known actress and received the Silver Bear in 98 for her very sensitive performance in Central Station, while Fernanda Torres has a important award of her own: she received the prize for the best actress in Cannes ’86 in her role in Love Me Forever or Never by Arnaldo Jabor.

Redeemer is Claudio’s second film and first feature — he directed in 1998 one of the three segments of Treason, based in the work of the great brazilian dramatist Nelson Rodrigues. He says that the idea for the film came from his interest on what he calls the “Brazilian chaos” which, for him, is more present in Rio de Janeiro than in any other place of the country. For Claudio, the afflictions of Célio are identical to those felt by the Brazilian middle class, which suffers from all kinds of ethical, moral and affective pressures. For this reason, says the director, his film wants to put on the table a political debate and a confrontation of the spectator vis-à-vis the Brazilian reality.

A self-confessed admirer of Glauber Rocha, Torres conceived his film with many incursions into the fields of fantastic realism, opera tones and mystic powers. The director says that Brazil is a country of absurdities, and nothing could be more normal, therefore, than to let the absurd express itself into the screen.

Fernanda Montenegro — who interprets Irene, Célio’s bad character mother — admits that is not easy to speak freely about a film made practically by her entire family but — affective ties apart — thinks that Claudio made a very courageus and authorial film, capable of transforming the exaggeration of some of the script situations into a tool to understand the country. The surrealism of Redeemer and its limitless liberation of creativity may be the strongest side of Torres’ film, who attributes part of the scenic overstatements seen on the screen to his assumed fascination on comics, specially those of Frank Miller, the author of Batman. Montenegro, who in her long career interpreted all kinds of mother roles — warriors, martyrs, anonymous, saints — recognizes that a bad character mom was missing in her gallery. Not anymore: Irene is a lower middle class mother who dreams with a home of her own and literally goes crazy when she sees a suitcase full of money.

The likelihood of the story with some real situations that occurred in the Brazilian society is not mere coincidence: some years ago, an investor (and federal representative, later expelled from Congress) whose undertaking in Rio crumbled killing several people, is remembered by Cláudio when, at the very moment that he is on the verge of bankrupcy, Otávio plots a coup involving millions of dollars together with a Bolivian businessman (Jean-Pierre Noher) in order to flee the country.

In a few words, Redeemer intends to be a witness of Torres’ views of the collapse of the Brazilian social pact, using for it a story that mixes social denunciation, drama, comedy and even touches of magic and phantasy, in an ironic picture of the historic national problems and the deep class differences between the rich and the poor.