In 2018, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he wanted “a Brazil like the one we had 40 or 50 years ago” – in reference to the days of the country’s military dictatorship, which saw violent censorship and torture of dissidents.
This contemporary context underlines the dazzling urgency of “Marighella”. Directed by Wagner Moura (the star of Netflix’s “Narcos”), the film chronicles the last years of Carlos Marighella, a Marxist revolutionary who led an armed struggle against dictatorship in the 1960s. With an exciting kinetic style reminiscent of ” The Battle of Algiers ”and conflicting close-ups of fiery eyes and faces, the film is not just a historical biopic – it’s a provocation.
And a fascinating one too. Seu Jorge plays the charismatic Marighella, whom we meet as he leads a group of young radicals in the robbery of an armed train. In flashback, we learn that Marighella was expelled from the Communist Party for her uncompromising involvement in the guerrillas. “An eye for an eye” is the motto of his cell, invoked throughout the film.
The group is struggling to balance on the razor’s edge of this sentence. “Marighella” gracefully walks through increasingly bloody heists, confrontations and shootings, with sadistic cop Lúcio (Bruno Gagliasso) on the tail of the activists. Still, the script leaves room for wit as well as meaty ideological debate, delivered in crisp bullets of dialogue by a uniformly solid cast.
“I’m your comrade,” Marighella’s wife Clara (Adriana Esteves) tells him. “But don’t make me your accomplice. Don’t ask my permission to leave here and die. As the tragedies pile up, Moura’s film becomes an elegy – not so much for Marighella as for an idealism consumed by the pyrrhic games of dirty regimes.
Unclassified. In Portuguese, with subtitles. Duration: 2 hours 35 minutes. Look through virtual cinemas.