IMAGENS 1972. BR. 68 min

a film by Luiz Rosemberg Filho.

Without any sounds, dialogues and with unknown actors, the images are the focus of this film. Images that want to awake, to question determinant moments, state of a system’s languages, the morality of deaths, the immobility, the silence, among other subjects.

In history’s garbage can, there is a worm that vibrates.
by Victor Guimarães

The director is in front of the camera on a deserted beach. His mouth is covered, his long hair is disheveled and his white shirt is soaked in blood. His glasses seem to obstruct his vision. The title of the film in capital letters - IMAGES - throbs over his face, interrupting him like the rhythm of a heartbeat. Soon there are other interspersed flashes: a hand caressing a woman's back, a painted male face, shredded by the edge of the frame, a fallen penis in the foreground, a long sentence written on another woman’s back who is walking oalongn the beach, a dedication: "work dedicated to Glauber Rocha". The initial prophetic whirlwind culminates in a series of black frames that continue to intersperse the image of the director facing us gagged. The initial pulse of Imagens settles us into a fragmentary, discontinuous rhythm, as if the effort to erect an image were constantly interrupted by imminent failure. A suffocated breath, a clogged vibration, a reluctant silence, which rhymes with the allegories of repression that we begin to glimpse.

Like that whitish sea we glimpse in the background of the opening shot, Imagens oscillates between a number of visual waves that are interspersed and end up overlapping in the viewer's memory. Here are the direct allegories of the country's historical moment: the map of Brazil with a revolver in the middle, the sleeping and bloodied cock on the eve of castration, the gag, the stalker who finds a naked body under the carpet, the corpses scattered on the living room floor, the long sequence of torture against a naked bearded man, perpetrated by a religious militiaman in swimming trunks, an agent of repression in a suit and an imperialist dressed in the colors of the American flag. Here, we are halfway between ideological archetype and pop debauchery, or between Señorita USA from Alianza para el Progreso (Julio Ludueña, 1971) and the tropical Nazi from Hitler III Mundo (José Agrippino de Paula, 1968).

But there are also the long sequences of walks towards nothingness, of bodies that rub up against each other without getting impregnated, populated by bourgeois in gala outfits or figures with painted faces who peek out from the edge of the frame or coexist in the same surreal plane, as if detached from the present, wandering in a mythical wasteland. In this vague, imprecise wave, in these flashes of pure inertia or prostration, there is the "cinema of the absurd, of existential anguish" that Cacá Diegues denounced in Cahiers du Cinéma, and that Rosemberg takes as his driving force. Here, significance predominates, rather than meaning; sensation, rather than meaning. The poem is enough in itself, with no need to move on to political prose.

"Letting a desire be born, nurturing it, developing it, feeding it, irritating it, satisfying it, is a whole poem," says one of the phrases directly inscribed in ink on the bodies. In these living signs, we are closer to the vibrant visual arts scene in Rio at the time, with a strong presence of performance and a manifesto tone. In Imagens, the allegorical or surreal waves are always interspersed, either by these brief performative-poetic tableaux, or by a gesture of collage of expropriated files - quite typical of Luiz Rosemberg Filho's work, from O Jardim das Espumas (1971), passing through A$$untina das Américas (1976), up to the video works of recent decades - which come either in the form of advertising clippings or documentary fragments, such as the one in which hundreds of children take part in a kind of military parade. In these short waves, as in radio interference, the flow is briefly interrupted and then relaunched.

But all these waves, of course, are not separate. As in a blustery sea, they mix and confuse, to the point of indiscernibility. One of the film's visual refrains is the image of a naked woman, bent over herself, in a mythical fetal position, but which immediately refers - for those with Latin American eyes to see - to the figure of the body on the stick, the favorite torture tactic of the Southern Cone dictatorships. Allegory, manifesto, fiction sketch, collage, poem, sociological essay, mythical resonance, pure sensation: Luiz Rosemberg Filho's cinema is pregnant with opposites, like a love poem written secretly on the back cover of a Marx book. A movie in which rhyming and resisting are equally necessary, equally delicious tasks. It's no coincidence that Rosemberg dedicates the film to Glauber Rocha, and it's no coincidence that Glauber says that "Rosemberg is the most consequential underground artist made in 68".

At the end, the director on the beach returns, now in long shot, without interruption. Blood is now splashing out of the frame as the camera moves closer to his face. A year is added to the word "end", like a declaration of principles or an angry inscription on the strip of film destined for an uncertain future: "1972". The naming of the year is a reminder to the archaeologists of the future: here, in this country, at the height of the most violent period of the last civil-military dictatorship, a free artist could only make a film like this: silent, in black and white, populated with violent images and prostrate beings, tired looks and walks towards nowhere, faces shattered by the frame and a clogged rhythm, sentences halfway between the lyrical poem and the sociological essay and naked bodies, but incapable of love.

A time when, while the immortal Cacá Diegues warned in Cahiers about the threat of a "cultural and political suicide", of "an irresponsible and dangerous cinema", the knowledgeable João Silvério Trevisan shouted "like a madman in an asylum", and welcomed "the rottenness of those who are giving up everything". Imagens is an ode to this resolutely suicidal cinema, destined for the underground or the dustbin of history. To that cinema that, with luck, would remain forgotten for decades in the basement of a European archive, without it ever being said how it got there, or why it didn't return until it was too late to accuse it of looting. Images is less of a valuable weapon for the fighters of its present, and more of a lyrical and furious letter, full of urgency, but aimed at the survivors of the future. "Look at the West of the future in the past," says the phrase inscribed on a pair of breasts. In this tape, tarnished by the time it was made, the warning survives: the dusk of the future was already here. But the poem's imperative still stands out: look.

DIEGUES, Carlos. AUMONT, J.; DE GREGORIO, E.; PIERRE, S. Entretien avec Carlos Diegues. Cahiers du cinéma, nº 225, p. 50, nov.-déc. 1970.
ROCHA, Glauber. Quoted in FERREIRA, Jairo. Cinema of invention. São Paulo: Azougue, 2016, p. 298.
TREVISAN, João Silvério. Quoted in FERREIRA, Jairo. Cinema of invention. São Paulo: Azougue, 2016, p. 107.