Impression: Whoah! I am a bit speechless and unsure what to say about this one. Super violent and graphic. Two running themes throughout the movie are coffins and a mysterious drug people take when they enter the town. The film has somewhat of a post-apocalyptic feel. Like a Brazilian Mad Max but without the cars. The setting and the gritty portrayal of place also made me think of The Bad Batch. But I think this is a deeper movie, I think it’s saying something about community and identity, although I am unsure what exactly. Maybe something as simple as that when people come together they can defeat external threats. It’s definitely saying clearly and loudly that politics and politicians are corrupt, and that people can organize and make positive changes in their community much better than waiting for a corrupt self-serving politician who only needs them when he needs their votes. Maybe it is also saying that when dealing with violence from above, sometimes it may be necessary to use violent means to survive.
The film is set in the near future in a dusty town of Bacurau, somewhere in the wastelands of Brazil. The town seems pretty much abandoned to its own devices; you have to be tough to live in Bacurau. There is only one thing they want from the local politician, and that is to help them deal with the water supply they have been cut off from. But there is no help. The small town has turned the church into a storage space. Prostitution is rampant and out in the open. The town doctor is also the town drunk. Some local guys are holed up with guns in the abandoned dam out of town: it’s unclear if they have been run out of town, or they left on their own accord and what exactly they are doing out there. Something violent and sinister has happened here before, but we are never fully told what.
But this is all just the set up. The second half of the movie brings in a way more global commentary on violence, hatred, indifference, and I will not spoil it. A lot of things are never fully explained, so you have to be the kind of person who loves (instead of getting frustrated with) films that make you ask: “What is this movie even about?” until the very end. Any maybe after…
Facts: Something weird is going on in a small dusty Brazilian town of Bacarau.
My Buddhist reading: That violence begets violence and in general that causes create effects of a similar kind is pretty much a given in Buddhist teachings. And that violence is not good, not just for those who are on the receiving end of it, but those who perpetrate it either, is also clear. But maybe in some ways Bacurau can be read as a personification of samsara. People are mostly left alone to do what they want within the town, but these outside violent forces which they perceive as completely outside their control have actually been caused by their own previous actions? And at the end, putting aside their differences and taking care of each other is what saves them? Maybe.