WJEC A Level Film Studies Essay
City of God has been highly praised for raising awareness whilst also criticised for exploiting suffering. Where do you stand on this debate? Fernando Meirelles’ ‘City of God’ remains an energetic and vivid depiction of crime, violence, and death in the poverty-stricken areas of Rio de Janeiro. The complex tales of stolen adolescence and threatened innocence have long maintained an overwhelming effect on audiences; through explicit confrontation of such disconcerting issues the film has attracted a rather mixed selection of critical acclaim. The film offers no justification or explanation for the events contained within its subject matter but, does it really need to?
A common criticism attached to the film is its supposed tendency to treat its characters with too much detachment. The characters are for the most part seen as though from a distance. They are largely two-dimensional, lacking psychological definition. The all-dominating violence is considered passively presented. This tends to inure the audience to the brutalities and, as a result, the film fails to generate much sympathy for its victims. Leading on further from this is the idea that we as an audience may well romanticise and thus memorialise the gangsters; for example, we do feel a strong sense of loss when Benny is killed despite the pain we know he has inflicted on others. In quasi-documentary style, flashbacks are used, together with frenetically edited jump cuts. Slow-motion shots and whirling camera work, as well as rapid colour transitions and jittery close-ups, give the film its intended slick look. The combination of these elements, however, works to create an inappropriate coolness that erects barriers to any serious involvement with the film’s protagonists. The result is a certain glamorising of the violence and a dehumanising of the film’s subjects. Collectively, arguments such as this advocate an exploitive film and indicate that the social ills...
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