International Cinema Essay, Research Paper
AN ANALYSIS OF HECTOR BABENCO S FILM, PIXOTE
This film takes place in Brazil during the early eighties. At first appearance, Brazil seems to be a modern day paradise. Large and exotic beaches line the city where tourists flock all year round. Even the people, at first glance appear to be very cultural and rich in heritage. However, this only part of the picture. What you don t immediately see is the overwhelming number of delinquent children who have no home. There are approximately twenty-eight million children in Brazil and roughly three million of them are homeless. Also, half of them are under the age of twenty-one. Children under the age of twenty-one commit the majority of all crimes in Brazil. This is because here, the laws protect the children. Until they reach eighteen years of age, they cannot be convicted of a crime. In the film Pixote, by Hector Babenco, this issue is addressed. The everyday struggles of the children on the street portray a dark counter-culture o the beautiful scenery that surrounds them. The film depicts the lives of numerous adolescents who take part in drugs, rape, theft, murder and prostitution. Because of their age they seemingly go un-punished. I believe the director used the main character, Pixote as a metaphor for the current state of Brazil. Through this character we see that the kids do survive despite their harsh surroundings and learn at a very young age how to survive at any cost. Children are constantly picked off the streets and thrown in to reform schools. However, these reform schools do little to help the children improve their standing. In fact, most of the children end up taking part in drugs; violence and pick up even more deceitful skills to use to help them survive in the world outside the reform school walls. I believe this expresses the main theme of the movie. I think Babenco, portrayed the homeless children of Brazil to show the differences between appearance and reality that were taking place in society. He wanted to show that while Brazil looked beautiful and welcoming on the outside the interior was rotting away because of drugs, crime and depravity.
The film s beginning scenes are filled with examples of a false appearance with an underlying negative reality. The opening shot of the film shows a bunch of young kids almost mesmerized by the television. They are watching violent scenes from a police drama show. The next shot reveals numerous children in a police precinct. In the near background is a mother trying to tell an officer that her son is missing. However, the police officer is more concerned with talking on the phone. A little later a police truck arrives filled with even more young children of varied ages. It is at this point that one of the children states that the police are rounding up children to find someone to pin the blame on for the murder of an old man. The next scene shows an officer taking a roll call of all the children who have just stepped out of the van. Most of them claim that they have no parents or that they only have one parent and the other ran away and so on. So, it is established that all of these children come from broken homes, if they have any homes at all. Another example of false appearance has just taken place. The image of the desperate mother trying to tell the police officer that her son is missing is an attempt to show that there are concerned parents in this society. By focusing on the women s face it is supposed to show that there is hope for these children because someone is looking for them, to help them. This is not the real situation. However, the truth is displayed during the roll call when the children all state that they are either from broken homes, don t have any homes or don t even know if there parents are alive or not. Also, a less evident example of this same theme is the television. Normally, showing children transfixed watching the television is supposed to symbolize a form of temporary escapism. In this society, their only form of temporary escape, the television, is filled with images that plague their daily lives, violence.
This film can really be looked at in two parts. The first part takes place in the juvenile reform halls where these children are placed after being picked up by the police. The second part shows what happens to these kids outside of the reform school walls. Keep in mind that these children are supposed to be receiving guidance and support in order to help rehabilitate themselves before they re-enter society. This is not the case. The reform halls are very much like prisons. There is blackmail and intimidation from the older kids and the bored and extremely violent jail guards abuse everyone. In one scene Pixote is asked by some of the older kids to have his parents smuggle in Marijuana when they come to visit. He says that his parents won t come and one of Pixote s friends claims that he can have drugs smuggled in by his mom. The kid then asks what he will receive in return for the drugs. The older children simply reply that they will make sure that he will not be raped, mugged or killed by them or the other senior children. In another scene a child has just been gang raped and there are no suspects. When the guards find the body, they simply toss him in the infirmary and that is the end of it. The police would also work hand in hand with the reform schools. When they needed a suspect they would just pick a kid to frame, so it at least appeared as if they were solving crime. One of Pixote s friends was beaten to death because he knew the truth behind one of the murders the police were investigating. He was killed because what he knew about the murder contradicted what the police were saying about it. Later on, the police simply framed one of the elder children who was about to turn eighteen so that they could convict him. This particular kid found out he was being framed when he saw himself on the news already being proclaimed the murder suspect. So, he lashed out and attacked one of the guards. He was then taken away and beaten to death. So, the institutions that are supposed to be reforming these kids are corrupting them and the police, who are supposed to be protecting them, are framing and murdering them. This is all done to present a false image of law and order in a society where crime is out of control.
After one of the elder children was framed and then murdered, his cross-dressing lover, Lilica incites a riot within the dormitory. Kids tear the mattresses off their beds and pile them up and light them on fire, setting off the fire alarms. The fire gets so big, that the fire department has to come and the news captures the whole thing on television. It is during this riot that Pixote and a bunch of other children escape the reform school. You would think that it would be a wise decision to escape the reform school because of its violence and abuse. However, for these children it isn t any easier out in the real world. Actually, it was even more violent and a lot harder to survive. This is where the second part of the film begins to unravel. Pixote and three of his friends are shown in the city constantly committing petty crimes in order to survive. Mostly, they are just stealing ladies bags and purses. These kids although they appear to be free are still institutionalized. The reality is that they are still in a jail, only you cannot see the walls that surround and restrict them. All around them they see kids who have homes and regular situations to deal with. So, Pixote and the others who escaped felt like they had to stick together because if they were separated, they wouldn t make it. Outside of the reform school they had more freedom but this freedom only meant not having to abide by a guard s time schedule.
At this point in the film Pixote is no longer looked at like the young child of the group. He has committed the same crimes and mistakes as the elder children he has been hanging around with. To make more money, the elder children tried to start selling drugs. They went to Rio to make a big deal and got ripped off. While trying to make up for their failed transaction in another deal, Pixote and another child run into the lady that originally ripped them off. Pixote ends up stabbing her in the stomach and accidentally stabs and kills his friend who is by his side. When he realizes what he has done, he dumps the lady s purse out, grabs a couple of watches and some cash and runs out. So, in the reform school where things are supposed to be worse, all Pixote did was dabble with drugs. On the outside, where things are supposed to be easier, he has already killed someone and seriously wounded another. Since selling drugs didn t work out, Pixote and the two remaining children work out a deal to pimp a hooker. However, it was a scam. The hooker would arouse the customer for a while until they were vulnerable and then Pixote and the other children would rob the customer at gunpoint. This scam worked out well for a while. One day while pulling this scam, the victim fought back and Pixote was forced to shoot him. However, he missed with his first shot and killed his best friend. Pixote was now alone. The other child who was originally in the group ran away and Pixote killed the other two with his poor judgment. This is probably the most vivid example of appearance vs. reality. Here is this little pre-pubescent child, who s only friend now is a middle-aged alcoholic prostitute. He has killed three people, two of them being his friends and seriously wounded another.
Pixote has now become a full-grown thug at the approximate age of eleven. So, Pioxte has now established himself in this delinquent lifestyle. We are just starting to get used to this pint-sized murderer, when appearance and reality conflict again. Despite his age, Pixote is no longer a child. He hasn t been a child in years, if he ever was one. After he has just accidentally killed his best friend, Pixote becomes ill. He throws up all over himself. Maybe it is at this point that he realizes he is way past the point of no return. So, he makes a drastic gesture to try and recapture his childhood with the hooker he is pimping. The scene is probably the most confusing and disturbing. After Pixote vomits on himself, the hooker, who he is pimping and that has grown quite fond of him, takes him in her arms. She starts to cradle him in her arms as he crawls into a fetus position. She keeps on telling him that everything is going to be all right. At this point Pixote pulls down her blouse in a non-sexual gesture and starts to suck on her breast. The hooker has now taken the role of Pixote s mother, sister and lover. She lets the child suck on her breast for a couple of seconds. This scene maintains its innocence for only a few seconds. We are able to see both of these characters s vulnerabilities in this scene. The grown prostitute taking on the imagined reality of being a mother, if only for a brief moment. And the young pimp and murderer trying to regain his youth. So, for a brief second these two characters forget their realities and take on new roles until the hooker finally rejects Pixote and throws him away from her.
The children portrayed in this film aren t made up, they do exist. They can be violent but their violence comes from despair and a will to survive at any cost. Their weathered appearance and attitude makes it possible for them to survive in Brazil s underworld. Under this exterior is the lost innocence of a child trying to survive. After, watching these scenes, the viewer knows there is no hope for these children. Appearance and reality have at last become one. The final scene shows Pixote walking alone on an endless train track with only his gun to protect him. Pixote is alone with no one to help or support him. The endless train tracks he is walking on suggest that there is no hope in sight and for Pixote, this is his reality.
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