A Very Crazy Asylum
April 29, 2012
In another literary adaptation – this time Machado de Assis’ novella O Alienista – and his first color film, dos Santos unleashes an extravagant, maddening excoriation of Brazil’s military dictatorship of the 1970s. As usual, the director exploits all cinematic constituents in his palette – a radically intrusive and discordant soundtrack, non sequitur editing, exaggerated camera angles and all manner of carnivalesque pageantry – to illustrate the tale of a doctor/priest on a mission to discover truth through the study of madness. The population of his asylum grows as his definition of sanity fluctuates until it finally threatens to incorporate the entire town. The film’s own irrational reversals and allegorical codes gleefully mock the arbitrariness of authoritarianism in all its varied guises.