A review of City of God
Cidade de Deus (City of God) is both a powerful and an evocative film. Set in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, it depicts the hood problems experienced in the 1960’s and 70’s in the area.
Narrated by Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), the film provides an absorbing tale of corruption, drug abuse and violence.
Beginning at the end, the film is made up of several overlapping layers that spawn from different character experiences, creating a multi-faceted film that allows every character to have their story told. Rocket’s presence primarily chronologically shapes the film’s trajectory as it bounces from one story to another. The telling of so many stories in one film allows for a textured telling of life in the City of God. When the film arrives back where it began viewers will truly feel a part of the world the characters live in, themselves entwined in the story and absorbed as to how the conflicts portrayed will be resolved.
City of God deals with racism, prejudice and misogynism (with Shorty (Gero Camilo) burying his wife alive after finding her sleeping with another man) whilst the portrayal of Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge)’s story explores the corruptibility of good men. The influencing factor behind the City of God’s problems, apart from its obvious poverty, is the battle between the roaring drug trade and greed. The main exponent of the latter is Li’l Zé (Leandro Firmino) and his hunger for power and his thirst to kill. In Li’l Zé the film produces a truly terrifying villain. The hood’s presence in the City of God effects everyone’s way of life including its children who begin to crave the power they see being fought for around them. Rocket’s attempts to photograph the resulting war for power in the slum add apprehension to an already tense film.
Directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund have created an in-depth explorationof the purgatory-like slum (likened in the film to Vietnam) that is both visually appealling and aesthetically pleasing. The titles that instersperse Rocket’s story-telling are Tarantino-esque whilst the use of split-screens in the portrayal of particularly irksome scenes add refreshing light to the gang warfare the film depicts.
Best line: ‘Honesty doesn’t pay, sucker!’