10 June 2019 | Rodrigo_Amaro
The indifference of the human condition
Humanity and decency should be what could make us being the better version of ourselves. To have compassion, to be capable of acts of love, sharing, providing for the less fortunate ones, to care about those in pain, suffering or those without having the proper means to sustain their lives. But the more the eras and decades go by, we become more and more careless, becoming more and more indifferent to human suffering by closing ourselves in our little
worlds. It's the era of immediatism, the era of intolerance and the struggle of social/economical classes; or worst: the era in we feel pleasure with other
people's tragedy. From pre-historical times to Biblical times and going to possible 200 years road ahead, the story was always the same. Written in the late
1800's by famed author Machado de Assis the short story "A Causa Secreta" presents the torments, the lack of decency and morality of a small group of
characters who go through an 180-degree in their lives while going from being helpful towards one another to later discover they're capable of acts of
cruelty from which they obtain some form of pleasure.
A brief summary from the short story which has its way to become the movie: a medicine student helps out an injured man and they become friends.
Both happen to be medical doctors and they join forces to build a clinic. All is fine until the latter presents his wife to his new friend, who falls in
love for the woman but only happens to a higher degree when she is revealed to be sick. The injured man turned friend is revealed to be someone who is
helpful towards people yet he's also a sadistic man who finds some fulfillment while torturing a poor rat - such fact is seen by his savior. And that is
"A Causa Secreta" ("The Secret Cause").
Sérgio Bianchi's film revolves around the short story but goes a little further in adapting the story to the 1990's reality (not much different from
our current era). In it, a theatre director (Renato Borghi) decides to make a play based on that story but this time only using the foundations of it,
without having a script and asking for his actors to make researches everywhere in order to consolidate an artistic treaty on the human condition and its indifference towards each other. The three leading actors from the play are played by José Rubens Chachá (as the medicine student Garcia), Cláudia Mello (as Maria Luisa)
and Rodrigo Santiago (as Fortunato, the sadistic doctor). The other members of the play are background actors; an annoying female art-director and a young property master (Alexandre Patersnot) - the latter being an object of desire from the latter character and from Cláudio (who plays Fortunato).
The story's core comes the laborary experiences faced by the whole theatre group - which also includes the director's incursion in trying to get the play's
budget from bureacratic officials in the government. Meanwhile, the actors visit a hospital; an AIDS homecare built for those who don't have access to a better health care; an animal institute; and conversation in between themselves about class struggle, poverty, misery at the same time when it seems that they care about those issues they ignore when it happens in front of them: like when the director sees a man hitting a dog he yells about how mankind turned into a
careless place but he's the one who is sarcastically rooting the man without going there to do stop the act; or at the same time poor children ask for food
or money to eat, all the actors avoid them. The more the research evolves, the more the group distant themselves from each other with fights after fights and
disastrous rehearsals and improvisations.
Now, here's a movie that could be a brilliant, great piece of filmmaking but it only becomes good due to some erratic choices with either the casting
or the acting itself from some actors. Most of them overreact, too noisy and I couldn't care about because they were trying to be too passionate about a cause
their characters were defending but it all sounded strange. The only ones who made the movie interesting were Rodrigo Santiago, who steals the show as being
the most observing of the actors troupe and little by little, he becomes exactly like the character in the play (the scene with the rat is unwatchable. Necessary
for the film's development though); and Alexandre Patersnot on his film debut - his character goes through lots of painful ordeals yet he's not an actor in the
play; but he's the one who goes through more experiences to become part of the play and one who's only interested in doing his job.
As for the screenplay I think it is one of the finest in Brazilian cinema. It has moments of satire, intertwines its storyline with a dark short story,
it has moments of drama and comedy but it's all tragedy. As for the movie's speech it may falter a little bit with some audiences since it may look as if the
film isn't revealing anything new about the dark side of the human condition. It opens and almost closes with the very same image that is reflected on the
play/short story but with different contexts. All we know is that people just don't care. And why should they? Human decency was made for people with a conscience and that theatre group didn't have any. So how they could succeed in making such a story to get applauded by an audience? "The Secret Cause" is
not for the faint of heart or those who avoid in dealing with social issues and the disparity caused by men's cruelty and ignorance. Thoughtful viewers
enjoy it and find ways to discuss it afterwards. 8/10