I am not a very committed classic movie watcher. Most of you would be amazed at the number of important movies I haven’t yet seen, not because I don’t value their contribution to the history of film, but because I tend to get overwhelmed with newer and shinier stuff and leave other things to the side. I have been trying to remedy this recently, and so I decided to watch “Central Station”, a very important movie for the Brazilian film history because of its Academy Awards nominations for both Best Actress and Best Foreign Film and because of its quality. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about it here for those of you who maybe haven’t heard of it, or have heard of it but are postponing watching it.
The movie follows Dora (Fernanda Montenegro), a retired schoolteacher who now writes letters for illiterate people at Central do Brasil (this is actually the name of the movie in Portuguese), the most important train station in Rio de Janeiro. A cynical, she only actually sends the letters she deems appropriate, throwing the others in the trash after sorting them with her friend Irene (Marilia Pera). One day, she writes a letter for a woman who is accompanied by her young son, Josue (Vinicius de Oliveira), and who is trying to contact the child’s father. After dictating the letter, the woman is killed by a bus outside the station. Dora now finds herself bound to Josue, and they end up going on a journey that changes them both.
The first thing that caught my attention about this was definitely Fernanda Montenegro’s acting. Brazilian actors have a tendency to be extremely theatrical, and Fernanda Montenegro is a theater actor even with years of television and film under her belt. However, I felt like she managed to do a more contained and subdued acting, keeping her emotions at bay and always just about to burst. And when she finally let them burst, we got some of the most powerful scenes in the movie. Fernanda Montenegro is probably the most respected actress in the country, and I felt like this movie really proves why. Brazil also has a tradition of working with non-actors, and this was the case with Vinicius de Oliveira, who played Josue. Walter Salles, the director, actually found him shining shoes at the airport. His little reactions, such as when he meets a man who he thinks is his dad, are very natural and well executed, and a more exaggerated attitude could have made the movie less believable.
I also thought that the script was really well written. By the end of the movie, you actually feel close to these people, you get emotional with their struggles and you want them to be successful in their endeavors. For me, being able to make the audience connect to your characters and care about them is what makes a strong script, and I felt like this movie was successful in doing that. Technically, the movie was also really well done, contrasting the small, gray and suffocating spaces of the city with the larger and clearer spaces of the countryside.
I have recommended a few Brazilian films before (you can read my reviews here, here and here), and this is another one that is worth a watch. I used to be really critical of Brazilian films and think that nothing was actually good, or as good as Hollywood movies, but being able to appreciate these narratives and this way of producing films has been a process for me and one that I’m enjoying going through. I hope that you do too, and as always, leave your thoughts here in the comments!
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