Saturday, 25 May 2019

Earth Entranced (Terra em Transe) (1967)

Land i trance
“Earth Entranced” or “Terra em Transe” is an intellectual exercise in describing political corruption South American style as a symbolistic poem.

Sounds like something that should be interesting?

I suppose it is if you really sit down to focus on the movie and look for all the political references. Unfortunately, this was not exactly my state of mind. I have been in Seoul for past week teaching and just needed something easy to relax to in the evening. This was probably the poorest choice possible.

I understand the ideas, or at least some of them, behind the movie. The objective has been to make a political commentary to the situation in Brazil in the sixties. Now, I do not know much about Brazil in the sixties, but I suspect it was the usual sad situation with corruption, coups and mismanagement. To “hide” that this is Brazil they invented the land Eldorado and a number of characters, which I suppose refer to actual characters or types in Brazil. They go through some cycles of shifting alliances, broken promises, corruption, interference by multinational companies and violence.

Back in my student days we played a boardgame called Junta, which was much the same. Except using corruption to gain power and plunder the country was fun in La Republica de los Bananos. “Earth Entranced” is not fun at all. Instead of poking at the political system using dark humor, the producers went for trying to make it a depressive avantgarde poem. No two actions are entirely connected. Everybody speaks as if they were proclaiming a poem. Jump cuts makes you dizzy with confusion.

Where did I see all this before?

Oh yes, French new wave. The sacrifice of the coherent causality of a plot to hammer home some symbolic points. So many symbolic points that the story apparent is largely lost.

Man, I prefer the dark humor version…

 I find it hard to summarize the plot because I did not get it. My usual crutch in those cases is Wikipedia, but reading the plot summary made me wonder if this was the same movie. The names match, though, so probably it is. It is something about a guy called Paolo (Jardel Filho) who supports different political candidates in the hope of saving Eldorado. Exactly what kind of political system he wants is unclear, but something about being accountable to the public seems to be a key. However, Paolo keeps getting disappointed. There is just no hope to get out of the mess.

There are quite a few women clinging to him throughout, but rather than being romantic connections they seem to symbolize various aspects of the country vying for his attention. Just as the many odd characters and situations symbolize parts and states of the country. I take it that the many nightclub images popping up out of the blue from time to time is the tendency to drown yourself in pleasures of the moment rather than taking responsibility. Perhaps.

I cannot say that I liked the movie. Maybe under different circumstances it would go down better, but this was just too intellectually pretentious for what I needed this week.


  1. I guess this type of movie isn't going to leave the List anytime soon! Will commiserate when I reach 1967.

    1. Indeed. Looking ahead on the List I recognize quite a few titles that work in that direction. Mind you, I am okay with symbolism and message movies are not necessarily bad. The problem is when the plot is sacrificed to drive home some obscure symbols. This I find very difficult to watch and the pretentiousness annoys me.
      If you want to do some cherry picking for 1967, this would not be a cherry.
      Something else, do you have some good 1968 off-list recommendations? I am going to include Bullitt and consider Yellow Submarine as the second.

  2. The big miss I see in The List is The Lion in Winter. Katharine Hepburn (Oscar), Peter O'Toole, Anthony Hopkins and some crackling dialogue. If you didn't hate a lot of musicals I would definitely recommend Funny Girl, with Barbra Streisand's breakout perfomance. She really is a force of nature and tied with Hepburn for the Best Actress Oscar. It's directed by William Wyler.

    1. Thank you for your suggestions. The Lion in Winter sounds like a good pick and I will probably go with that one.

  3. I've only got 17 films left on the List and Earth Entranced really stands out as one of my worst film experiences. I say this as a film buff who likes Vinyl, Jeanne Dielman, Barren Lives and most of Godard's films.

    1. I would say this would make Earth Entranced very bad indeed, but you know how I feel about Godard.
      No, this one was not good. Look to my next review for how political allegories should be done.