Barren Lives (1963)

Barren Lives (Vidas Secas)
Directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Written by Nelson Pereira dos Santos from a novel by Graciliano Ramos
Luis Carlos Barreto Producoes Cinematograficas
First viewing/YouTube
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

I found this story of abjectly poor itinerate workers compelling but very sad.

As the film begins, a family – father, mother, two small boys and a faithful dog – is walking on a seemingly endless path through dry cattle country.  They carry all their scant possessions with them.  By this point, they have so little food they are compelled to kill a pet parrot for a bit of meat.

Finally, they arrive at their destination, a now-vacant house once occupied by a friend or relative.  This is much better than the road, particularly now that it has started raining and they settle in.  But before long a local farmer comes to evict them.  Fortunately, the father has skills as a cattle herder and is hired by the farmer so they can stay.  He will be paid one quarter of the calves born in his care.

Mother’s one dream is of a real bed.  It is hard to save when the family owes its soul to the company store.  Things look up briefly when the family buy Sunday-best clothes and shoes with some of their earnings.  But before long, injustice and ignorance rob mother of her dream and the family is forced to move on.  It is implied that they will end their lives, but not perhaps their poverty,  in a big city.

The film is virtually dialogue free but it kept my interest throughout with some effective film-making.  The overwhelming feeling is a sense of pity and hopelessness.  It is not a film I can say I enjoyed but I will remember it and am glad I watched it.

Trailer – no subtitles