Tuesday, September 15, 2015

O Pagador de Promessas (The Given Word) (1962)

Today's film is O Pagador de Promessas, which translates to "a payment for promises" and has the English title The Given Word.  The film goes to show you how stubborn men can be and the trouble it can cause.

Zé lives on a farm in Brazil.  He has traveled a very long way, 7 leagues in fact, while carrying a heavy cross on his shoulder.  His wife, Rosa, accompanies him on his journey.  They get to the church of Saint Barbara, and Zé intends to leave the cross at her altar in order to fulfill his promise.

Meanwhile, a man called "Handsome" sees them lying on the steps of the church and invites Rosa to his hotel so she can avoid the rain.  However, he is creeping on her the entire time.  I see him as mainly a character to distract her from her husband and create drama.

So, in the morning it's Saint Barbara's festival.  Zé sees the priest and tells him his story about his promise.  However, he has one fatal mistake: He talks way too much!  All he had to do was tell him that he made a promise that if his favorite donkey was healed, he would carry a cross and lay it at her altar.  That's it.  But no, no, he has to run his mouth.  He didn't make the promise in a church, he made it in a house of witchcraft, or macumba (which is an old-fashioned term for early non-Christian religions, kind of how like Santeria is practiced here).  This makes the priest all kinds of angry and he refuses to let Zé into the church.  Thus, the stubbornness stand off begins.

So is Saint Barbara and Iñasã the same person?  Technically yes.  When missionaries went to other countries, they often mixed local customs to make it easier on the people.  The best example is Brigid.  She's a Celtic goddess in Ireland.  The Christians couldn't "get rid" of her, so they declared her a Catholic saint, Saint Brigid.  Is she a real person? No, she's a goddess.  In the same way, people pray to Saint Barbara and her macumba counterpart, Iñasã, mainly against fever and illness.  It is important to know that Barbara was a martyr who died for her beliefs.  So, people like Zé can't tell the difference between them, because there isn't, while a conservative priest certainly can.

Very soon, the media takes over, and starts putting words in Zé's mouth.  The whole thing turns into a media shitstorm circus, just like Dog Day Afternoon.  The only person who sees any sort of reason is Rosa.  She tells him to take the church's offer and stop letting the press get to him, and that they should leave and go home before anything gets worse.  But, Zé is super stubborn and will not take anything for an answer until he gets his cross inside.  But we already know that's not gonna happen!

So they get the cops called on them.  The bystanders in the crowd tell them to run before they are arrested or maybe shot!  Lol, Brazilian cops are just like American cops, shoot first and ask questions later.  However, he can be easily arrested for disturbing the peace, which is what he is doing.  Anyway, cops being cops, they start a massive free for all fight which results in Zé's death.  But, absolutely no one else is hurt in the slightest.  Why?  So, the crowd gathers around him and ties his body to his cross and force their way into the church.  Zé finally did keep his promise to Saint Barbara, but he died for what he believed in.  And all of this for a donkey.  What have we learned from this?  I will give this film a 7/10.

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