Barren Lives (Vidas Secas)
April 20, 2012
Widely acclaimed as a masterpiece of early Cinema Novo, Barren Lives is based on the classic novel by Graciliano Ramos revolving around a landless family facing the extreme conditions of the Northeast Brazilian desert. Dos Santos imparts a dire treatise on agrarian reform with an austere means of production and few words. The dialogue that is spoken is often less directly articulate than the parched land, grating sounds and overexposed, dizzying views from the eyes of each of the characters, including their loyal, stoic dog. At the mercy of the contradictory whims of Nature, Fate, and Authority, the family follows glimmers of hope on a desperate journey to become “real people.” Dos Santos’ woodcut realism reaches the height of parable without sacrificing tender nuance and the idiosyncrasies of all creatures who exist in this arid atmosphere.