The Limits of Choice

By Francisco Noronha

TORQUATO NETO – TODAS AS HORAS DO FIM (Every Hour of the End) is an account of the life, work and death of the Piauían poet, but lacks acuity and endurance in the present.

At a time when the concepts of fiction and documentary are permanently and deliberately fused and confused in contemporary cinema, the fim by Eduardo Ades and Marcus Fernando defines itself as a documentary in the more traditional sense of the term: that of telling a story.

It does so knowing how to keep the viewer interested, supported by the intra-diegetic use of the soundtrack, and, above all, the collected footage, alternating excerpts from films (Nosferatu in Brazil, 1970, by Ivan Cardoso, and Terror da Vermelha, 1972, by Torquato himself) with writings, photographs (the Barthesian punctum preventing them from becoming commonplace) and interviews in the present. However, the visual choice of grain and chromatic distortion is highly questionable, which places them somewhere between a childish, forced nostalgia and a crass kitsch.

The film’s title carries the shadow that never ceased to be present in Torquato's life: the fear and desire of finitude, death. Paradigmatically, the film begins at the end with Torquato’s suicide (on the same day of his birthday, in a symbolic overlap between origin and destiny), setting the tone for the ever-present spectral dimension. Thus inducing viewers to question themselves, after hearing a verse a few moments earlier, if Torquato had felt at some point that he was "betraying" his own poetry.

If formally, as a conventional documentary, the film has the virtue of knowing how to tell a story, it doesn’t cease, however, from being constrained by excessive linearity (contrasting its protagonist's utterly misaligned persona). The problem here is not – again – of narrative, but of acuity. Two examples. First: why Torquato, initially a strong opponent of the Tropicalista label, ends up embracing it? The second example, is even more problematic, and ends up diminishing the object’s potential: in a film in which the theme of death is ever so present, it is as if consumed it, preventing its own posterity. This is because at no time the filmmakers seek to put Torquato’s work in dialogue with the present or, at least, with the Brazilian culture in the times following his disappearance, failing to offer a true dimension of his legacy. In this sense, it is as if the film itself "died", encapsulated, enclosed itself and in itself.

Still, its greatest feat may be one that would make Torquato Neto happy: that of showing how poetry is in fact freed from literature, how it is revealed in all its expression, from the noblest to the tiniest, the most elaborated to the most instinctive or primitive. Of how she, poetry, feeds herself insatiably, like Nosferatu, of the simpler and more complex events from daily life. The poetry that exists in life and the one in ... death, the mort au travail that the photographs of his face evoke.