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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: June 2019

Chapter Three - Hamlet and the Moment of Brazilian Cinema


I explore the ways in which O Jogo da Vida e da Morte and A Herança deploy locale – the favela and the sertão. I stress the extent to which the films find comparable metaphorical resonances in their respective habitats, highlighting, in so doing, a series of intricate relationships between land, property and poverty. I go on to suggest, in the second section of the chapter, that the films’ intersecting treatment of the communal, the spiritual and the racial is evidenced in their privileging of rituals and celebrations, such as the Claudius/Gertrude wedding or the Old Hamlet/Ophelia funerals. O Jogo da Vida e da Morte and A Herança, I argue, are preoccupied with communities that fail or are unable to provide for their own, thereby introducing images of Brazil that run counter to populist conceptions. As I maintain in the chapter’s final section, A Herança discovers Omeleto/Hamlet at his death as distributing the estate to the peasantry, thus marking a radical break with traditions of land ownership in the north-eastern regions. O Jogo da Vida e da Morte, in contrast, visits little capacity for change on João/Hamlet, stressing his distinctive powerlessness and inertia. While A Herança endorses the ideal of a socialist utopia, then, O Jogo da Vida e da Morte assumes a more nihilistic attitude. Responsive to the straitened political conditions of Brazil in the early 1970s, O Jogo da Vida e da Morte and A Herança reveal the capacity of Hamlet to be pulled in two directions at the same time, occupying recuperative and defeatist positions, to address similar sets of difficulties.