Times of Peace (Tempos de Paz)

By 31 August, 2010

A man arrives in Brazil looking to start a new life on the day the Second World War finishes. However, Brazil is technically still at war. Customs officials suspect he is a Nazi seeking refuge. Locked in a basement of the port, the ex-gangster customs officer and the immigrant fight over his fate. At the same time as this encounter a political prisoner, freed by a pardon on the President’s birthday, goes on the hunt to find the man responsible for his disfigurement. Their stories violently intersect as the two men battling it out learn the emotional truth about each other. A simple, short and beautiful film.

Peacetime is a wonderful film that takes the very complex issue of immigration and turns it into a beautiful and simple story of a day in the lives of two men that will change them forever. The story of one person trying to start a new life in another country after his home has been torn apart by war is one that is as relevant now as it was then. The immigrant in this film, Mr. Clauswitz, goes to a new country and offers what he thinks they need, willing to undergo intense scrutiny to gain the right to enter Brazil. In the end his fight is won by using his true skill.

The films opens with highly stylised, computer generated, war-style titles that evoke a modern spy film. These titles are, in contrast, overlaid on very bleak archive footage of the war. The final archive image fading into a picture postcard of a ship sailing between lush, green coasts. The highly stylised cinematography is a huge part of the beauty of the film, drawing from film noir, spy thrillers, 1940s gangster films and, of course war dramas. This blending and mixing of genres is one very common in Brazilian cinema as it carves a unique niche for itself. The ambiguous genre keeps the audience guessing as to how this film will turn out and the emotional climax is definitely a surprise.

As the film ends, the stylised credits detail the profiles of many of the artists, actors, directors, scientists and intellectuals that escaped persecution in Europe for a better life in Brazil. Showing that Brazil is a melting pot for races and cultures. These credits end with “… and the many others the war turned Brazilian”. A poignant ending to a beautiful and thought-provoking film.

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