Antônio das Mortes

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(O dragão da maldade contra o santo querreiro)

Brazil, 1969

Director: Glauber Rocha

Production: Produções Cinematográficas Mapa; Eastmancolor, 35mm; running time: 100 minutes. Released June 1969, Rio de Janeiro. Filmed on location in Milagres in the Brazilian Northwest.

Producers: Zelito Viana (executive producer), Claude-Antoine Mapa, and Glauber Rocha; screenplay: Glauber Rocha, from the legends about the bounty hunter who killed the famous bandit Corisco in 1939; photography: Alfonso Beato; editor: Eduardo Escorel; sound: Walter Goulart; art director: Glauber Rocha; music: Marlos Nobre, Walter Queiroz, and Sérgio Ricardo.

Cast: Maurício do Valle (Antônio das Mortes); Odete Lara (Laura); Hugo Carvana (Police Chief Mattos); Othon Bastos (The Professor); Jofre Soares (Colonel Horacio); Lorival Pariz (Coirana); Rosa Maria Penna (Sanata Bárbara); Mário Gusmão (Antão); Vinivius Salvatori ("Mata Vaca"); Emanuel Cavalcanit (Priest); Sante Scaldaferri (Batista); the people of Milagres.

Awards: Best Director (tied with Vojtech Jasny), Cannes Film Festival, 1969.



Rocha, Glauber, Antônio das Mortes, in Roteiros do terceyro mundo, Rio de Janeiro, 1985.


Second Wave, New York, 1970.

Martinez, Augusto, and Manuel Pere Estremera, Nuevo cinelatinoamericano, Barcelona, 1973.

Gerber, Raquel, editor, Glauber Rocha, Rio de Janiero, 1977.

Rocha, Glauber, Revolução do cinema novo, Rio de Janeiro, 1981.

Johnson, Randall, and Robert Stam, Brazilian Cinema, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1982.

Rocher, Glauber, O seculo do cinema, Rio de Janeiro, 1983.

Bandeira, Roberto, Pequeno dictionario critico do cinema brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro, 1983.

Burton, Julianne, The New Latin American Cinema: An AnnotatedBibliography of Sources in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, New York, 1983.

Sarno, Geraldo, Glauber Rocha e o cinema latino-americano, Rio de Janiero, 1994.


Callenbach, Ernest, "Comparative Anatomy of Folk-Myth Films: Robin Hood and Antônio das Mortes," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1969–70.

Interview with Rocha, in Afterimage (New York), April 1970.

Rocha, Glauber, "The Aesthetics of Violence," in Afterimage (New York), April 1970.

McGuinness, Richard, in Village Voice (New York), 21 May 1970.

Interview with Rocha, in Cineaste (New York), Summer 1970.

Hitchens, Gordon, interview with Rocha, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1970.

Wallington, Mike, in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1970.

Fisher, Jack, "Politics by Magic: Antônio das Mortes," in FilmJournal (New York), Spring 1971.

Haakman, A., "Antônio Das Mortes, de mooie revolutie," in Skoop (The Hague), vol. 8, no. 5, 1972.

Simsolo, Noël, "Antônio das Mortes," in Image et Son (Paris), March 1972.

Proppe, Hans, and Susan Tarr, "Cinema Novo: Pitfalls of Cultural Nationalism," in Jump Cut (Chicago), June 1976.

Graham, Bruce, "Music in Glauber Rocha's Films: Brazilian Renaissance, Part 2," in Jump Cut (Chicago), May 1980.

Rocha, Glauber, "The History of Cinema Novo," in Framework (Norwich), Summer 1980.

Mistron, Deborah, "The Role of Myth in Antônio das Mortes," in Enclitic (Minneapolis), Fall 1981 and Spring 1982.

Vega, J., "Glauber Rocha: el santo guerrero del cinema novo," in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 134, 1992.

* * *

In his lyric-mythic epic, Antônio das Mortes, Glauber Rocha creatively integrates elements of Brazilian popular religious culture, politics, folklore, social history, music, literature, and dance. Because of this thoroughly Brazilian context, the film is difficult for foreign viewers. Furthermore, the emblematic characters are not simple allegories but rather complex, synthetic creations representing real or fictional persons, social types, mystical or mythic motifs, social movements, or ideas.

The complexity of these unusual characterizations is exemplified by the protagonist, Antônio das Mortes. This figure had appeared in Rocha's earlier film Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol. According to Rocha, Antônio das Mortes is based on a historical figure, the bounty-hunter who in 1939 succeeded in killing Corisco, a famous cangaceiro (bandit) of the Northeastern backlands. In the film Antônio first appears as a jagunco (hired gunman) contracted to kill cangaceiros and protect a powerful landowner. After mortally wounding the cangaceiro Coirana, Antônio undergoes a political conversion and becomes a revolutionary who uses his rifle against the forces of oppression represented by the landowner and his hired gunslingers. The ending of the film is ambiguous in terms of the possible future role of the lone revolutionary. Antônio is last seen as a solitary figure walking—rifle in hand—down a backlands highway past a Shell Oil sign; the suggestion may be that a lone gunman can provoke a revolutionary situation in an underdeveloped regional setting, but he will be unable to halt massive exploitation in the new era of the multinationals.

In Antônio das Mortes, Rocha reworks the Christian myth of St. George versus the dragon in terms of Brazil's mythical consciousness. The St. George and the dragon myth is announced in the film's opening triptych and alluded to in a closing sequence: in three rapid montage shots. Antão lances the landowner from horseback. Antônio das Mortes is not the only warrior saint, or St. George figure, in the film. Antão, whose name is similar to Antônio's, is a black associated with Afro-Brazilian religions. Antão's conversion from passive religious follower to armed warrior continues the tradition of black revolt in Brazil.

In order to ritually reenact the St. George and the dragon myth, Rocha theatricalizes the continuity of his film and its mise-en-scène. Many of the scenes take place in stage-like settings such as the cavern-amphitheater or the village square. The costuming, choreography, and the use of color, poetry, and music recall theater and opera. Rocha's method of shooting imitates theatrical time and space. He prefers either lengthy sequences with a few cuts or long sequence shots. Conventional shot-reverse shot or cross-cutting are generally rejected in favor of capturing the scene's significant elements within the shot and the frame.

Rocha has argued that Brazilian filmmakers should not use European and American cinematic strategies and techniques to depict Latin America's unique social problems. In Antônio das Mortes, Rocha seeks to contribute to the decolonization of Brazilian cinema by meshing new cinematic strategies with Brazilian reality. One such strategy is Rocha's use of a Brazilian color code: the bright colors of buildings and costumes are natural and authentic colors that convey cultural significance for Brazilian audiences. During the location filming, Rocha drew directly on the knowledge and experience of the backlanders. The music and the dancing of the Antônio-Coirana duel scene are largely a creation of the local people.

Antônio das Mortes was well received by the Brazilian film-going public. In Europe and the United States, the film was widely acclaimed by critics, and a debate erupted concerning the film's revolutionary qualities (or lack thereof). Today most critics regard the film as one of the greatest achievements—both aesthetically and culturally—of the Brazilian Cinema Novo.

—Dennis West

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Antônio das Mortes

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