Deus E O Diabo Na Terra Do Sol - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

(Black God, White Devil)

Brazil, 1964

Director: Glauber Rocha

Production: Copacabana Films (Rio de Janeiro); black and white, 35mm, running time: 125 minutes. Filmed in Monte Santo, Bahia, 1963. Released in Rio de Janeiro, 1 June 1964.

Producer: Luiz Augusto Mendez; associate producers: Glauber Rocha, Jarbas Barbosa; director and screenplay assistant: Walter Lima, Jr.; director and dialog assistant: Paulo Gil Soares; screenplay: Glauber Rocha; photography: Waldemar Lima; editor: Rafael Justo Verde: art director: Paulo Gil Soares; music: Heitor Villa-Lobos and Sergio Ricard (songs by Glauber Rocha).

Cast: Geraldo Del Rey ( Manuel ); Ioná Magalhães ( Rosa ); Othon Bastos ( Corisco ); Lídio Silva ( Sebastião ); Mauricio do Valle ( Antonio das Mortes ); Sônia dos Humildes ( Dadá ); Marrom ( Blind Julio ); João Gama ( The priest ); Antônio Pinto ( The "Coronel" ); Milton Rosa ( "Coronel" Moraes ).

Awards: Prize of the Mexican Critic at the International Festival of Acapulco (México), 1964; Great Prize, Festival of Free Cinema (Italy), 1964; Gold Naiade—International Festival of Porreta Terme (Italy), 1964; Great Prize Latin American, at the International Mar Del Plata Festival (Argentina), 1966.



Rocha, Glauber, Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol , Editora Civilização Brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1965.

Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol
Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol


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Diegues, C., Positif (Paris), June 1994.

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"You could say that Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (Black God, White Devil) was a film provoked by the impossibility of doing a truly great Western, as, for instance, John Ford could. Equally, there was a trail of inspiration from Eisenstein, from The General Line , from The Battleship Potemkin , and further ideas from Visconti and Rossellini, from Kurosawa and from Buñuel. Deus e o Diabo arose from this tussle between Ford and Eisenstein, from the anarchy of Buñuel, and from the savage strength of the lunacy of surrealism."

So Glauber Rocha defined the multiple influences which contributed to Deus e o Diabo in an April 1981 interview with João Lopes (in the book Glauber Rocha , by Sylvie Pierre), four months before his death at the age of 42. Shown at Cannes in 1964, Deus e o Diabo , together with Nelson Pereira dos Santos' Vidas Secas (Barren Lives) , introduced the international viewing public to the Cinema Novo, an artistic movement which strove, in the name of a political conscience, for a Brazilian identity and ethos. Enthusiastically received at Cannes— Georges Sadoul considered its style "revolutionary"— Deus e o Diabo genuinely lived up to the Cinema Novo's motto: "an idea in the head and a camera in the hand." Glauber Rocha, the Cinema Novo's most controversial figure, was the author of bombastic writings, such as the manifesto "The Aesthetics of Hunger," (presented in Genova in January 1965 during the Reseña del Cine Latinoamericano), in which he stated that "our originality is our hunger." And the concept of hunger—both literally and in reference to a hunger for social justice—is central to Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol. The film's opening is prosaic enough: Manuel (Geraldo Del Rey), a poor herdsman, married to Rosa (Yoná Magalhães) and living in the dry, barren countryside of Northeastern Brazil in the early 1940s, decides to sell his cows and buy a plot of land. Things go awry when he ends up killing the buyer of his cows. Fleeing his destiny, he embraces the first option in the gospel according to Glauber Rocha: religious fanaticism, embodied by the Negro god, Beato Sebastião (Lídio Silva), a synthesis of the messianic leaders of that time and region. Sebastião promises his flock divine salvation and foretells the day when "the dry lands will turn into sea and the sea into dry land," which is the leitmotif of the film. Glauber Rocha believed that "the people of the Northeast are truly obsessed by the desire to see the sea, a sea which signifies the broadest sort of liberty."

As Manuel and Rosa follow the fanatic priest, Antonio das Mortes (Maurício do Valle) enters the scene; he is famous for exterminating cangaceiros, the rural and very violent bandits of the region. Hired to kill Sebastião, Antonio das Mortes is a quasi-mythological figure in his intimidating black cape. His character is further developed in a subsequent film, O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro (Antonio das Mortes). By the time the killer reaches Sebastião, it is too late: the fanatic has already been killed by Rosa in a sacrificial ritual. On the run again, Manuel and Rosa join Corisco (Othon Bastos), the blonde devil. The physical embodiment of bitterness and cruelty, Corisco's ambition is to avenge the death of the legendary cangaceiro Lampião while proffering impassioned speeches in defense of the poor. Antonio das Mortes and Corisco face off in a stylized duel in one of the film's most effective sequences. Corisco is shot and dies screaming "the power of the people will win out."

Manuel and Rosa, true representatives of Corisco's "people," flee headlong through the interior, leaving behind them the fanaticism and the violence until the crazy Sebastião's words become true: the dry lands become sea and the sea becomes dry land. Herein lies the utopia of Glauber Rocha. The voice of the blind man is heard explaining the reasons for so much suffering: "divided up the way it is, the world is wrong. The land belongs to man, not to God nor to the devil."

In Deus e o Diabo , Glauber Rocha's second feature, launched after Barravento in 1961, the director created a tragic and convulsive northeastern opera; it is strongly allegorical, with symbols for "good" and "evil" in constant interaction. Some true-to-life portrayals, such as Manuel and Rosa, contrast with others of a classically theatrical tone, notably Corisco, inspired, according to Rocha, by Brecht. Linking aspects of popular culture with elements of the western, the film is narrated and sung by a blind man, a simplification of the Greek chorus. The outstanding sound track alternates Bach with Villa-Lobos, whose Fifth Bachiana contributes to one of the film's most striking moments: the love scene of Corisco and Rosa, choreographed and rhythmical, an unexpected outpouring of guileless poetry against a desolate backdrop marked by poverty and violence.

A true exponent of the author's cinema style, with the strong political and social concern of the 1960s, Glauber Rocha's restlessness is felt through the impatient use of the hand-held camera, the originality of his framings, and the rhythm of the editing. The use of panoramics, travellings, zooms, and close-ups produces a tense and eloquent narrative, punctuated by philosophical interjections—"fate is greater than we are;" "we have nothing to take but our fate," and "man learns nothing in peace, he needs to fight to live and he needs to die to win."

Thirty years after it was made, Deus e o Diabo retains its contesting tone and the revolutionary personality of Glauber Rocha. At the age of 25, with a camera in his hand and a whirlwind of ideas in his head, Glauber Rocha created one of the most important Brazilian films through the undeniable strength, originality, and beauty of this furious fable about good and evil.

—Susana Schild

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