In the current moment, when we see denialists able to echo their opinions across the country and even causing deaths during the pandemic, I believe that care is needed in any approach that promotes a clash between faith and science. in the case of the movie fated, which still deals with spiritual surgeries in a post-John of God period, it is even more important to build a narrative with a minimum of maturity. Mishandling a work like this makes it possible to flirt with unhappy themes, even if it is not the intention of the filmmakers; and unfortunately that’s what happens.
Based on a true story, the film follows José Pedro de Freitas, popularly known as Zé Arigó (Danton Mello), a simple man who lived with his wife Arlete (Juliana Paes) in Congonhas, Minas Gerais. In the 50s, Arigó became internationally known for his “spiritual surgeries”, reaching hundreds of people a day. According to his account, who guided him through the surgical procedures was the spirit of Adolph Fritzum, a disembodied German doctor during the First World War.
First of all, it is important to emphasize that there is no problem in a film adopting a strongly religious character. If the content is presented with depth, combined with a sharp form, it can result in admirable works. For example, I am a deep admirer of until the last manby Mel Gibson, and Silence, by Martin Scorsese, two explicitly Christian films. In Brazilian cinema, we still have the fun The Car of Compadecidaby Guel Arraes.
Therefore, religiosity is far from being the problem of fated. The fact is that director Gustavo Fernández never manages to break the feeling that his film is nothing more than propaganda. That’s because there’s no clear arc here for the protagonist. The resistance that Arigó has with the “voices” is soon overcome in the first act. From that, what we see are several sequences highlighting how he was a good and persecuted guy. In fact, there is a scene with the presence of Chico Xavier that only reinforces the sensation of propaganda, since it does not move the plot forward.
Even about these moments with no impact on the narrative, notice how the scenes do not shape or bring any internal consequence to the character. There is even an attempt to promote a family drama, but in a lazy way. For example, halfway through the film, the protagonist’s son complains that his father treats everyone but fails to cure him of a leg problem, which is a potential dilemma. However, soon after, the boy’s drama is discarded, to the point of not even having another line until the end of the film. Therefore, in addition to making mistakes in the dramatic construction, Fernandez seems not to take care of the continuity of the work itself.
Since the only apparent intention is to promote spiritual surgeries and the figure of Arigó, with absurd simplicity, one option would be to show the protagonist’s impact on the lives of those around him, but that doesn’t happen either. the inside of the characters. For a supposedly religious work, it is absurd that the filmmakers do not understand that the process of faith is mainly internal.
Since all the director’s attention is really on the “surgeries”, it is worth saying that visually convinces The use of practical effects draws attention and the exposure of blood and organs has an impact. Another positive point is the performance of Danton Mello, who efficiently moves between Arigó’s shy personality and the aggressive Fritz. On the other hand, Fernandez does not find any other visual solution that makes us engage with the story. It’s all pretty basic, ambient shot, foreground, close-up, with standard lighting; resulting in an almost television-like tone.
However, in addition to being structurally poor, fated has a dangerous approach to the growth of denialism in Brazil, going back to what was said in the first paragraph. Obviously, Arigó was challenged for not having an academic preparation for medicine, this is necessary. However, the work treats these people, specifically doctors, as spiteful and Machiavellian figures. Being able to emphasize how some elements of the faith are still difficult to explain rationally, the long opts for a cheap and empty Manicheism. Even the town priest receives redemption, while the president of the physicians’ association ends the film in villainy.
Any minimally mature person understands that science exists precisely to try to explain what still remains hidden. For this, questioning is necessary. It is not a question of doubting, but of trying to prove. Treating experts as villains in a narrative gives voice to a kind of reactionary thinking that is difficult to accept. I don’t think the filmmakers of fated they did it premeditatedly. The only sin of driving was lazy driving. But even in a bug-ridden project, flirting with denial is unforgivable.
Predestined – Brazil, 2022
Direction: Gustavo Fernández
Road map: Jaqueline Vargas
Cast: Danton Mello, James Faulkner, Juliana Paes, Antonio Saboia, Cássio Gabus Mendes, Marco Ricca, Alexandre Borges, Ravel Cabral, Marcos Caruso, Carlos Meceni, Luiz Adelmo Manzano, Maurício de Barros, Aldo Bueno, Matheus Fagundes José Trassi, Sergio Cavalcante
Duration: 110 min