O Pagador de Promessas aka The Given Word, written- with Dias Gomes, based on his play- and directed by Anselmo Duarte
10 out of 10
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
This is a masterpiece and one of the best films I know.
You can find it on The New York Times ‘Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made:
The Given Word has won the most important cinema award:
- The Palme d’Or
Zé do Burro is the hero of this fantastic narrative.
He is acclaimed by some as “The New Jesus” and condemned by others as an agitator, a Satan disguised as a saint.
When his best friend Nicolau is hit by a branch from a tree, Zé do Burro is very worried and calls the doctor.
The hemorrhage does not stop and the farmer is told to get some cow dung and put it on to the wound.
Since all this does not help and Nicolau has the fever, our hero travels two leagues to a place which has a sort of shrine for Saint Barbara.
There he makes a pledge, The Given Word from the title is a promise to walk with a cross, like Jesus to the church of Saint Barbara.
Nicolau is cured and his friend thinks this is a miracle that he has to pay for and respect his promise and travel to the church.
Zé do Burro is accompanied by his wife Rosa, who is unhappy with all this kerfuffle and the other part of the promise.
The farmer is not only ruining his shoulder with the heavy cross, but has also shared his land with the peasants.
Later in the film, when the press is involved, this sharing of property is given a headline and articles are written:
- New Jesus preaches Revolution
But before that, Zé do Burro tells his story to the catholic priest of the Saint Barbara Church and he is attacked.
First of all, Nicolau turns out to be his …donkey, hence the nickname of Ze the Donkey. The place of the Promise is evil for the father.
He immediately calls the man trying to enter the church a blasphemer and a Satan in disguise that would never enter his church.
But it is not your church it belongs to the Saint, protests the hero who recognizes that he went to a witch and promised to Inasa- but it is the same thing.
The film is heavy with symbols and is thought provoking, including themes like religion, the Catholic faith and the paramount role of the priest and the religious hierarchy, the press and its search for sensational subjects.
There is a prostitute- called by locals the woman who is married to everyone- and disabled people who come to be cured, like in the original story of Jesus Christ, with the authorities getting involved, like in the Roman days.
One passage has reminded me of John Milton and the quote:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven...”
For the farmer is confused when so many try to help him, but others, mainly the priest consider him the devil
- They take heaven into hell and place God in lieu of the devil…says the bewildered hero
He is reported to the police by Handsome, a pimp who has tried to lure Rosa and eventually make her work for him.
The titles in the newspaper do not help, since the journalists wonder if he is an agitator, trying to promote the Agrarian Reform.
The protagonist has no idea what that is.
Zé do Burro is a fascinating superhero, not unlike Jesus, even if he is definitely not trying to copy the savior and he does not want a following- indeed, when blind men and others in need come to this “New Jesus” to save them, he says plainly that he has no power.