A grim look at aspects of slavery and economics in 1821 Brazil has been provided in “Vazante,” directed by Daniela Thomas, who wrote the film with Beto Amaral. The atmosphere of the time and place is caught effectively in black and white cinematography, and the film zeros in on personal stories simmering explosively.
The setting is the landscape of Brazil’s Diamantina Mountains. Antonio, played by Adriano Carvalho, is a farmer on a run-down property he received in a dowry. He has been on a trading expedition, and upon returning, is informed of a tragedy. His wife has died in giving birth, as has their child.
There is a slave population on the land, which will lead to a dramatic complication. Antonio wants a new wife, whom he finds in Beatriz, portrayed by Luana Nastas, the very young niece of his late wife. The film is efficient in giving us a portrait of class life on the land and the hardship both of the slaves who toil there and Antonio, who must struggle to survive.
Beatriz is attracted to Virgilio, played by Vinicius Dos Anjos, a spirited a young slave, and one can suspect from the outset that something devastating will occur from the forbidden relationship. Eventually Antonio is delighted to learn that his new wife is pregnant and is hopeful that this time all will go will with the birth. In the predictable plot, a shock is coming.
Director Thomas, both in her co-written screenplay and in the sweep of her direction, has a lot on her mind. In her look at the civilization (or lack of it) in the period covered she is shedding a light on slavery, the status of women, the men who rule and Brazilian history. The plot may be formulaic in its leading toward tragedy, but the overall vision is perceptive. Although “Vazante” is a sad film, it is also enlightening and very well-made. A Music Box Films release. Reviewed January 12, 2018.