Film Review: City of God
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City of God
The 2002 film City of God, directed by Salles, is a gangster/crime genre film that is set in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. The genres formula calls for the setting of the film to be “in a city” and if we were to compare the setting in older films such as Scarface, The Public Enemy, Angels with Dirty Faces and the more recent Clockers, it is obvious that City of God is a third world city and not the urbanized city that we are used to seeing in the genres classical films. In this city, regardless how rich the gangsters are you will never see them wearing elegant clothing or going to expensive restaurants and clubs. The hoodlums in this city are as cheap in their taste as the others in the community and the only thing that differences them and identifies them as rich men is the exaggerated jewelry they wear. The gangsters in this film are just like Warshow describes them when he says they are “without culture, without manners, without leisureexpansive and noisy…”
By aligning itself with the gangster formula the film achieved to provide and communicate, in a revisionist way, the message that crime doesnt pay in a more real way than older films but still using the classical iconography and fatal outcome that the deaths of the gangsters represent. As Schatz mentions in his essay the application of the Cain and Abel theme presented as a variation, the figures typifying Cain and Abel are not in fact brothers but two boys who were born, raised and lived in the same city and both had older brothers that were hoodlums, bring a more balanced opposition that gives way for the audience to compare and contrast the paths that the characters took. This balanced opposition also serves as contrast for the opposing forces and allows the personality and character of each to be highlighted even more. Various elements that the director kept in the classical formula for the genre, and that may have caused the film to lose some of its effectiveness was the repetition of many films in that while they effectively portray the problem society has, they dont provide the audience with a clear and effective solution to it.
In the film, nature, its presence not seen in earlier gangsters, appears as part of the gangster world. In the beginning of the film we see that before they go hide in their houses and other shabby buildings the tender-trio, when in trouble, run towards the safety of the forest and remain in the shadows of the treetops until they feel more secure. Another revision that was made to the genre in this film was the cast that was chosen. Many of the characters in the film are children and teenagers and as the plot develops the age limit for becoming a hoodlum seems to decrease until we see in the final scene a group of young children planning to take over the drug business in the city and make a list of people they need to kill. In the same topic it may be added that the director of the film, unlike in films like The Public Enemy, does not leave as much room to imagine the violence and conversations taking place due to the employment of overt and explicit violent visuals and conversations between the characters.
It may also be argued that City of God takes place in the setting of the imaginary city that produces the gangsters and destroys them, and not in the modern and industrialized city that we are used to see in films and that simply creates criminals. In the other hand, when it comes to characterization in the film, the director also revisions the genre in some aspects. While characters in the previous gangsters such as The Public Enemy, Angels with Dirty Faces, Clockers etc. are developed only to certain extent, the characters in Salles film are given a much deeper development, history and reasons to why they chose that