Warning: Possible spoilers.
City of God is a 2002 Brazilian Film directed by Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Kátia Lund. The film is loosely based on the real events revolving around the growth of organised crime in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.
City of God is one of the most interesting films I have ever watched narrative wise. Despite the film’s narrative being told from the perspective of the supposed main character, Rocket, the actual story of City of God revolves around, as the name suggests, the City of God as a whole. The story perspective switches around frequently. At first, the film follows Rocket in the eighties before partaking in a flashback to follow his life before that point. Through out the course of the film, the story bounces around from character to character, giving us fresh new insight into their characters. Now, at first glance, City of God might seem like a disaster of a film: one hundred and twenty five minutes of a one hundred and thirty minute movie is a flashback segment which could be seen to lack focus as it constantly switches around to show the full life story of a multitude of characters.
I loved City of God and I can thankfully say that this film was definitely not a disaster in the slightest. In fact, I would say it was my favourite foreign film I have seen to date (apologies La Heine, it looks like you lost out to this great flick). The movie mainly succeeds because despite its seemingly loose grasp on character focus, it makes sure to keep bringing back previous characters in the narrative back into focus. Despite Rocket seeming mostly inconsequential to the overall plot of Gang Warfare, the film never leaves him behind and always brings back the movie towards his situation: the ordinary boy trying to make an honest living in a world of cruelty and corruption. This forms a somewhat complex but never the less well crafted web of relationships between the characters of the film and helps us attach to characters more as we see them as real people with a real series of relationships.
Another plus point about the film is that it is enjoyable because its character are so enjoyable. The varied focus on characters means that we get a series of well developed characters or at least well-defined characters: Rocket is the kind-hearted soul trying to escape from the chaos of the suburbs, Knockout Ned becomes a tortured soul seeking vengeance for the crimes Li’l Zé inflicts on him, his girlfriend and his family and Li’l Zé is the mentally unstable child turned sadist crime lord who you love to hate (yeah, this film is definitely not for the squeamish but then again, what did you expect from a Brazilian film about crime?). Even a series of side characters, such as Carrot, Blacky and Benny, get their own development over the course of the movie, giving us a greater scope of the situation within the City of God. The only exception to the well developed members of the side cast is Stringy, Rocket’s supposed best friend (I say supposed only because we learn nothing about him over the course of the movie except that he wants to be a lifeguard. The only real flaw of the movie is that they don’t tap into the amount of potential they could have had with that character).
Whilst the characters are the main driving force of the narrative and the main focus of the film, it should also be noted that the cinematography of the film is good as well and music is used to great effect over the course of City of God, helping build atmosphere and tone but also helping to create a sense of Brazilian culture and the time period (Plus, any movie that has the song ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ in it can’t be that bad, right?).
In conclusion, City of God is an amazing film with excellent characters and a brilliant story of gang violence and conflict. I definitely recommend you seek it out and watch this masterpiece of a film for yourself.
You can purchase City of God at the following link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/City-God-Cidade-Deus-DVD/dp/B00008W64Q