Thursday, 3 May 2012

Review - Carandiru - (2003 - Dir. Hector Babenco)

If it's the stereotypical prison drama you're after then Carandiru may not be for you. That's not to say there aren't brutal scenes of fighting, drug taking, scalding, shanking, rat attacks and several other features of the Prison Checklist, however the film is much more than a gritty tale of incarceration. The action conveys a sense of warmth and humanity to the lives of the characters mainly through the examination of flashback scenes of their pre-custody lives relayed to the prison doctor and this makes the whole thing more real and at times disturbing.

Over the first three quarters of the film we get to know, like and believe the stories of the inmates and this makes the ultimate ending so much more powerful. There's also an intriguing contrast between the characters we think we know and their actions in the prison environment. For instance, it's hard to believe a charismatic romeo called Highness can behave the way he does away from his previous life and the ladies, although his chat up techniques are equally unbelievable. The fact that we view the prisoners' stories through the eyes of the prison doctor, and subsequently the author of the novel recounting his actual time within Carandiru, also adds a sense of realism and authenticity to proceedings. 

The fact that the film was shot on location in the real prison just before it was demolished adds an extra layer of realism and the naturalness and unforced nature of the acting may be a direct result of them living and working in this environment. There are no weak performances with Maria Luisa Mendonça (Dalva), Rodrigo Santoro (Lady Di) and Lázaro Ramos (Ezequiel) the pick of the bunch. It's Brazilian, it's original, but I doubt it's what you're expecting. Definitely worth a watch.

If you like this you could also try:
Favela Rising, The Elite Squad, Bus 174.

1 comment:

  1. I quite enjoyed this too even though I hate flashbacks with a passion. There is a very fine line between the criminals and the riot squad. In fact, virtually non-existent.