Luiz Bolognesi’s Brazilian animation film ‘Uma história de amor e fúria’ tells of ‘love and fury’ that transcend the boundaries of time. The protagonist traverses Brazil for almost six hundred years in a recurring history, showing that every time has the same horrors of injustice and oppression. But also that some loves are so strong that they always survive the test of time. The story is set in pivotal moments in Brazil’s bloody history, presented for a change from the perspective of the oppressed and not the well-known ‘heroes’ mentioned in history books.
The main character, appearing in four different human guises (and one animal), was born in 1566 as Abeguar, in the jungle where Rio de Janeiro would later form. For example, the animation in the characters is seemingly straightforward, but the landscapes – also later the urban ones – are beautifully designed. He grows up to be a strong young Tupinambá warrior. When he and Janaína, his great love, come face to face with a bloodthirsty jaguar and they have nowhere to go, it turns out that Abeguar can suddenly fly like a bird when they jump off a cliff. According to the shaman, one of their gods gave him this power for a reason. After a dark ayahuasca trip, it becomes clear: Abeguar must forever fight for his people against evil and the oppressors. He must never give up the fight an adage that will remain with him for centuries. The first war is lost to the Portuguese, who murder the Tupinambá people and build a new world where one already existed. When Abeguar sees his beloved Janaína die, he throws himself to the ground, but instead of dying, he turns into a colorful bird and flies for hundreds of years until he again encounters Janaína, in a different body, but unmistakably herself.
The year is 1826 and our hero finds himself in the middle of the Brazilian struggle for independence. The historiography of Brazil’s past is increasingly focused on the black pages, the other side of the heroic stories of the conquerors. Bolognesi uses this perspective to tell his story. He depicts the men we know from statues and stately portraits as greedy murderers without a pang of conscience. Slavery is still in full swing and the Portuguese authority is taking it, just as the military dictatorship 150 years later would. Abeguar is now called Cau and ends up in the world of the insurgents against the dictatorship in 1968. Janaína is a passionate member of the resistance and Cau joins, ultimately resulting in seven years in prison. In 1980 he works as a teacher at a school in a favela in Rio, when he is murdered by the police during a night raid. As a bird, it then flies for over a hundred years to land in a futuristic Rio in 2096. The city has become an alienating metropolis, the oppressed are still powerless, this time due to great water scarcity and unfair imperialism.
The battle should never be given up, that much becomes clear in the somewhat moralistic closing scenes, and the past will never be forgotten. The message would have been clear without that extra emphasis, but that is the only real downside to this otherwise beautiful, sincere and committed production.