I had always envisioned Latin America as an exciting place, ripe with beautiful beaches, stunning girls, warm afternoons, tangy food and a sport that's very dear to me. This perspective completely changed after watching Alejandro Jodorowsky's work and Jose Mojica Marins's Coffin Joe movies, which are capable of crawling under your skin and then volleying around with that lump in your throat. They are like rotting versions of the most delicious pizzas available — slices of absurdity, violence, horror, religious fanaticism, surrealism, the supernatural and symbolism topped with a nice layer of satire.
The Cabrito Trilogy by Luciano de Azevedo falls somewhere along these lines, but with a more contemporary presentation of his vision. It's an ambitious project that includes three short films and a feature-length film. I won't be discussing the latter as there's quite some time before the development commences. The subject in focus is a nameless man who finds himself entertaining a disturbing set of beliefs that his mother has ingrained in him.
The struggle is alarming, as we see his "visions," which aren't just weird hallucinations but his mind signaling that there is a monster awakening in him. The films' tone becomes increasingly close to the visions, and the butchery depicts his state as he's overwhelmed by desires.
In Cabrito the handling of exposition is necessary to build the shock, which is exactly what the director wants from audiences.
Cabrito: Fear Eats The Soul
Cabrito, the first short film from the trilogy, is the manifestation of evil. We see the protagonist's fear eat away at his sanity while chewing up his insides over the revolting nature of his crimes. It carries on the Freudian philosophy attached to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, deconstructing the sanctity of a mother-son relationship.
Though present in a physical form, the mother is truly a ghost, one that has latched on to her son's conscience. She transforms into a perennial source of conflict, and has the last laugh. The film was shot on a tiny budget, and uses its crew's technical craftsmanship to be effective, along with distinctive performances from the cast.
Rosalita: When Angels Deserve To Die
In Rosalita, we see Samir Hauaji's character face the consequences of being pious towards a religion that would make Satan blush. His only motive in life is to build a family with the blessings of his mother's corpse. The story shifts from the atmospheric, centered Cabrito to a character-centered segment, which is carried out through a top-tier performance by Hauaji.
Despite being powerless, Hauaji forces the camera to focus on every intricate detail on his weathered visage. The scenes featuring him are powerful, and he lingers in every frame, irrespective of his presence.
The third short of the trilogy has't been released yet, but focuses on the origins of the cannibalistic practices that have infiltrated a normal, functioning family. This film serves as the prologue to the trilogy, and revolves around the father. Tracking the protagonist's childhood, it also answers questions about the absence of his father in the chronologically succeeding films Cabrito and Rosalita. It also clears the air around the intriguing pig man, and reveal his relevance in the protagonist's subconscious.
The Perturbing Atmosphere
What I find stunning about Luciano's two films is the focus on atmosphere, and an understanding of the distinction between the words "scare" and "fear." To be scared is to emote or react to a specific instance, and is temporary. Fear is a condition that lingers whether the incident continues or not.
Working on a minuscule budget of $750, the movie flirts with unsettling lighting and camera composition that are absent from a number of films today. The practical effects involved in creating the pig-headed man's scenes are beautifully crafted. There's gore, but the color palette is maintained in such a way that it doesn't glorify the butchering; it enhances the aesthetic value.
The use of music, especially the delightful folk songs, fit in perfectly as innocence is swept from under the protagonist's feet. The sound design is crisp and is cleverly laid out to "build" tension, rather than forcing it on the viewer. Rotten Tomatoes classified the films as art house and #horror because of their ability to blend the visual and aural aspects of film into one harrowing onslaught on the senses.
Inspiration And Intention
After speaking to director Luciano de Azevedo about his trilogy, I learned about the inspiration behind his films: religious fanaticism. Religion cannot be separated into the 5–6 major ones we are aware of. There are hundreds of sub-sects that impose an unregulated authority over naive masses. One particular incident that also inspired him was a string of revolting murders that took place in Brazil where a well-educated man and his two female partners killed three women and ate them. They also fed one of the victims' daughter her mother's flesh.
The director wants to highlight the extent of maniacal radicalism that is experiencing a boom in isolated areas, especially those that are distant from the organization of city life. A big section of his home country, Brazil, is dominated by evangelical pastors who mislead normal people into committing atrocities against each other. If you take a wider look at the world, the same can be said of other underdeveloped countries as well.
Despite being raised in a religious family, I think that beliefs don't necessarily have to be applied in every aspect of life. Peace is what humanity as a whole should strive for, and that doesn't require complex guidelines to be practiced. The ability to think for yourself should be emphasized before you are able enough to make decisions that would affect others.
The Cabrito Trilogy is a remarkable critique on this system of ignorance that distorts our natural thought process. It'll be exciting to see what's in store for the audiences in the next two films and how Luciano ends his tragic saga.