|Designer of the film: José Júlio de Calasans Neto|
There is an explanation of the title Barravento in the opening credits. It is a storm wind of the worst kind, an instant violent clash of the ocean and the earth.
English Wikipedia synopsis: "In a village of xaréu (Kingfish) fishermen, whose ancestors came as slaves from Africa, persist old mystic cults connected to candomblé. The arrival of Firmino, a former inhabitant who moved to Salvador, running away from poverty, transforms the peaceable panorama of the place, and polarizes tensions. Firmino is attracted to Quota, but he is not able to forget Naína who, on her part, likes Aruã. Firmino orders dispatch against Aruã, that isn’t attained, in opposite to the village that sees the cut net, impeding the fishing. Firmino stirs up the fishermen to revolt against the owner of the net, coming to destroy it. Policemen arrive at the village to control the equipment. In his fight against exploitation, Firmino argues against the master, mediator between the fishermen and the owner of the net. A fisherman convinces Aruã of fishing without the net, since his chastity would make him a protected man of Iemanjá [/ Yemanja]. The fishermen are successful in their piecework, under the leadership of Aruã. Naína reveals her impossible love for Aruã to an old black woman. In his defeat against mysticism, Firmino convinces Quota of taking away Aruã’s virginity, and consequently breaking the religious enchantment that makes him a protected man of Iemanjá. Aruã takes the bait. A storm announces the “barravento”, the violent moment. The fishermen leave for the sea, two of them die, Vicente and Chico. Firmino denounces Aruã’s loss of chastity. The Master reneges. The dead bodies are guarded, and Naína accepts to make the ritual, so she can marry Aruã. He promises the marriage, but before he decides to leave for the city to work and to earn money for the purchase of a new net. In the same place where Firmino arrived at the village, Aruã leaves for the city."
I saw Glauber Rocha's debut feature film for the first time. It is already an assured piece, clearly inspired by Luchino Visconti (La terra trema), but completely original, setting the "revolt of the fishermen" story into Bahia among African-Brazilians.
Strengths of the film include a powerful documentary approach to the life of the fishermen, their hard work on the rough sea, risking their lives constantly on their wooden jangada rafts where precise coordination is necessary to negotiate the high waves. In this sense Barravento belongs to the Flahertyan tradition of the cinema. It is a celebration of the physical skills of the fishermen in their battle with the elements.
The fishing is based on a huge dragnet which is dragged to the land by some fifteen fishermen.
Tony Rabatoni's cinematography, based on a moving camera, is excellent, and if Rocha and Rabatoni have been watching G. R. Aldo (La terra trema), Eduard Tissé (¡Que viva Mexico!), and Gabriel Figueroa (his Mexican style inspired by Eisenstein and Tissé), they use their sources of inspiration as a springboard to an original vision. The cinematography is ambitious and successful with a rich and expressive use of field sizes from bird's eye shots to extreme close-ups. Shot on location, Barravento has an intensive sense of the ocean and the jungle.
Orson Welles also filmed a jangada story (Four Men on a Raft) in his unfinished It's All True, but probably Rocha and his friends cannot have seen its footage; nor would they have needed to. But they are in the same league.
The title design by José Júlio de Calasans Neto is original.
The editing is powerful. The rhythm of the montage is based on the rhythm of sea. It is also based the rhythm of the work of the fishermen. Further it is based on the rhythm of the fights between the men; I believe they may be capoeira. There are climaxes of music, dancing, and the ceremonies of candomblé. The music by Canjiquinha is exciting.
Barravento is not a work of psychological complexity, but the characters are impressive in the same way as in films by Flaherty, Eisenstein, and La terra trema. Barravento is a celebration of survival, fight, and sensuality. Finland is a country where every now and then during the studio era there was an unforgettable extended al fresco swimming sequence by the leading lady. Barravento offers a particularly charming Afrodite sequence like that, haunting, voluptuous, nocturnal.
After the barravento storm there is a moving funeral sequence of two drowned fishermen, but the film ends on a note of a new beginning, and never giving up.
A strong poetic movie. The Itapuã lighthouse is a key image.
The sound has apparently been post-synchronized, and a studio echo slightly weakens the impact. The visual quality is often enough great to do justice to the beauty of the definition of light; at times (for example in the beginning) in this print there is a low contrast / slightly out of focus / slightly duped quality. The print is complete.
I look forward to revisiting Barravento.