“The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”
Bradwell v. Illinois | United States Supreme Court, 1873
A slow, brooding minimalistic piece of arthouse production set in the Diamantina Mountains (Brazil) in 1821, weaving together a story fraught with elements of feminism, colonialism, and race that persisted across centuries. Vezante tells a cyclical story of death and life, at both ends striking the central patriarchal figure (Adriano Carvalho) with the plague of grief as a seeming analogy to the dispensation he provides to those who serve under him throughout the film.
After a merchant’s wife and newborn son die in childbirth, the man remarries his wife’s young niece (Luana Nastas), who quickly must navigate physical and emotional unrest beyond her years with her husband’s aging slave plantation and its displaced inhabitants. She develops an intimate relationship with one of the young slaves and through the process finds a seeming moment of rest in a world of persistent unwelcoming.
There are powerful elements of Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. In one, man take for themselves, in a moment of abrupt depravity, the purity of another, reminiscent of the flashes of evil we see being fed through the lens of our media culture. In the other, a slow, prodding effort by man to tame the beasts of the field and domesticate the female potential to the role of servant. The black and white approach is visually impressive, but also serves as a metaphor for a backwards world of familial divisions marked by the husband’s rule over the wife and the enslavement of humans by whiteness. Certainly common themes for the time, but a visually striking depiction that will challenge the audience to stay awake and appreciate the lasting impression the film provides.