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Friday, April 04, 2008

MUTUM: Story of Brazil's Recent Past

Patricia and I went to the Walker Art Center to see MUTUM during the Women's in the Directors Chair series. This Brazilian film by Sandra Kogut is about a family on an isolated subsistence farm in the arid backlands of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Our central character is Thiago, a ten year old boy who knows little about the outside world except for a few horseback trips into a nearby village.

Thiago's father is distressed by a passing way of life and trying to provide for his family. His mother bares the burden of her husbands anger and frustrations and Thiago throws himself between them as his mother protector.

The feature film is an adaption of Jose Guimaraes Rosa's novel and while it is fiction, it strikes at the heart of Brazil true agrarian migration and the poverty that devastated rural Brazilian states like Minas Gerais and Bahia.

Religion plays a significant role in MUTUM, as the mystery of how nature delivers its fate evades common experience or a social consciousness thus becoming an acceptance of an authority beyond that which you can see or touch. But there is no preaching and deifying of faith.

In many ways, MUTUM reminds me of the brilliant German documentary film THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL for the intensity and detail of how they story is told. Not much dialog and visual detail aplenty, it keeps your head in the world in which Thiago lives. We feel the full power of a thunderstorm as dramatic as it can be in a place where a person is not constantly barraged with manufactured drama.

MUTUM is a mood-piece, a film that is evocative and deeply detailed in creating the sense of a simple life where children spend the day playing with insects, teaching the papagaio to talk, and chasing chickens. The pacing and lack of dialog set the viewer in a different spatial and temporal frame -- a pace of life that is nearly incomprehensible to modern western over-stimulated audiences. But MUTUM's unhurried observations are well worth the effort to persist in watching.

The young actor whose name is also Thiago is astonishing and the film, with all its subtlety and nuance pays off hugely at the end -- even with its small and unsensational emotion. The emotional impact is deep but not blunt. You may never get the chance to see this film but if you do, let it transport you into a different world than the one your are accustomed to living.

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