One day, bored in the house with nothing to do, no one to talk to, nothing to watch on TV, I rifled through the DVDs we had lying around. And I found City of God.
I knew nothing of the story, of the plot, just that it was supposedly a good movie. I’ve long ago discovered that movies are best watched that way — watched blindly without expectation, assumption or any pre-existing biases.
So I stuck it into the CD player and hit play.
And I was shocked at what hit me. But an amazing kind of shock. Scandalized, rather, but of a non-sexy, rather baffling, mind-boggling, speech-impeding whoa-inducing sort.
I don’t know where to begin, but let’s begin at the basics.
Basically it’s about this city, the City of God, a slum in Rio de Janeiro. No one expects any good to come out of the city; when a crime is committed in the area, it is almost automatically assumed the culprit came from the City. It was that kind of place.
It’s about drug-dealing, corruption, and greed — for money, for power. There’s a little bit of hope, just a little. Mostly, it’s also about desperation — the mentality of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” is etched in the minds of everyone here. Everyone — and I mean everyone — is involved in some kind of illegal dirt. Jobs don’t matter, and neither does age.
If you’re a little slow on the uptake (as I usually am in gang movies), don’t worry. I can honestly say that the narration was excellent! There were a lot of characters involved, and as is the case in a lot of gang-related movies, a lot of betrayal and backstabbing and all that mumbojumbo, but not once was I lost. Names are mentioned enough to be embossed in your brain and the story-telling’s straighforward. Also, although the flashbacks are inevitable, there’s none of that confusing artsy non-linear timelines like in the Hollywood movies. Irregular timelines are cool sometimes, but I’m just saying the way they told everyone’s stories in this particular movie was — there’s no better word than — excellent.
There were a whole lot of things going on but just enough to get you hooked. The movie was a perfect balance of everything. The drama was dramatic. The action was, er, actiony. The comic reliefs were funny! :D
I won’t go into the details as I don’t want to spoil anything. (And I want you to know as little as you can about the movie, the same way I did.) But let me tell you this: One day, when you’re alone and in the mood for a riveting movie with an explosive storyline (both literally and figuratively), the type that will get you either gritting your teeth over gigil, or screaming expletives at the TV, or both, and at the end make you go either “whew” or “whoa” or “holy fuck that was amazing,” then you should definitely watch City of God.