Vidas Secas

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 15, 2015

Really vivid neo-realism.  It’s very instructive, especially with all of its authentic, authoritative regional particularities. It is informed, nuanced. Every instance of poverty or hopelessness is distinct. Is it in poor taste to suggest that it isn’t very entertaining? The images are powerfully rendered and combined, but they add up to an over-determination in excess of the barren lives being portrayed. This film is sadistic! It may well be that this cruelty is actually intended to have an effect on the affluent international viewer. That could be productive. If this is the case, though, then it is being productive at the expense of its ground-down protagonists.

That said, given the time, the place, the practitioners, the social and economic specifics, and their insistent recurrence throughout all of human history, Vidas Secas should probably be seen, and submitted to. The jail episode has a Malcolm Lowry awfulness to it. The circular ending is powerful. This kind of thing is never going to stop. Now can’t we do something to stop it?