Film / O Auto Da Compadecida

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O Auto da Compadecida or known among English viewers as A Dog's Will is a 1999 Brazilian movie and regarded as one of the country's greatest classics, based on a play of the same name by Ariano Suassuna. The story takes place the impoverished, dry deserted region of Northeast Brazil and follows two friends trying to get by using their wits and silver tongue: the lively João (played by Matheus Nachtergaele) and the cowardly Chicó (played by Selton Mello). The two men work as assistants to the local baker and get wrapped up in several misadventures including tricking a priest to deliver the last rites to a dog as part of its will, trying to marry a landowner's daughter or risk loosing a lump of flesh as the price and an fatal encounter with a bloodthirsty bandit lands the main characters on a trial by the Devil, Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

The movie is ostensibly a comedy, playing on several archetypes from the Brazilian Northeast region and also has some supernatural elements. It was also released as 4-part minisseries for TV and won several local awards.

This movie features the following tropes:

  • Adapted Out: Certain characters from the original play were written out from the movie such as the friar, the sacristan and the demon assistant, due to how minor their roles were.
  • Adaptational Name Change: The Devil was referred to in the original play as "Encourado" rather than obviously identified as a Satan.
  • Bandito: Severino and his cangaceiros are the Brazilian equivalent of this trope.
  • Corrupt Church: The priest and the bishop are characterized as extremely greedy. Hell, the reason the priest even agreed to administer last rites to the dog was because João claimed its will was supposed to hand him over money as inheritance. In their trial, the Devil's charges them with simony and disdain for the weak.
  • Back from the Dead: João receives a second chance instead of going to Hell.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A large number of the main cast dies during Severino's attack on the city, but they are forgiven in the afterlife; João is restored back to life and Chicó succeeds in marrying Rosinha. Unfortunately, she gets disowned by her father and the three are forced into the run.
  • Crapsack World: While the movie is played for laughs for the most part, towards the end its illustrated that the Brazilian hinterlands are a extremely harsh place to live.
  • The Devil Is a Loser: He certainly got shades of this trope. While most of the cast fears him with good reason, Joćo keeps making wisecracks at his expense, he spends his scenes avoiding Jesus' face because his holy power is too much for him and even tries to emulate his physical appearance at one point before Jesus tells him to cut that out. Its more obvious in the original play where he is dressed in all white in an attempt to pretend to be God.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: João is constantly doing this to the Devil's face, in fact, while everyone else is crapping bricks out of fear of pissing him off, he has no qualms about telling him Evil Smells Bad. It actually verges on to Do Not Taunt Cthulhu when the Devil loses his patience and tries to drag everyone to Hell by force.
  • Divine Race Lift: Jesus is black in this movie. Justified, since he can assume any form he wants and he took one specifically to confront the main characters' pre-conceived notions.
  • Easily Forgiven: Severino is the first one allowed entry to heaven, despite his sins actually being worse than the rest combined - while the other sinners range from being greedy, adulterous or arrogant, he is an actual murderer and wanted criminal. Even worse, the four sinners have to enter the Purgatory instead of Paradise. This trope is actually called out by Satan of all people when he laments that "people suddenly turn good when they die''.
    • Justified in the movie that Severino saw his parents being killed when he was a mere child and the trauma drove him to insanity. When recalling this, Severino murmurs in sorrow that he never wanted to have survived (his mother shielded him with her body while being shot) and spent his life challenging death. Jesus proclaims that due to his insanity, Severino couldn't be held responsible for the things he did.
  • Game Face: The Devil stops using his human face and takes on a more monstrous visage after João pisses him enough times.
  • Guile Hero: João has used his wits and cunning to survive.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • The baker Eurico and Dora make peace with each other before being executed by Severino's lieutenant. The priest and the bishop also forgive their executioner seconds before their deaths. This is what ended up saving them from Hell.
    • Even though its not quite the same thing since he is already dead, but Joćo gives up on his own salvation and just resigns himself to an eternity of torment and torture in Hell after bargaining for the other's souls to enter Purgatory. He believes his soul couldn't be saved and no excuses, but Virgin Mary is able to successfully save him.
  • Freudian Excuse: Severino's is revealed in his trial when his family was murdered by corrupt police officers.
  • Hanging Judge: The Devil is characterized this way. He wants to punish the sinners and the wicked without a just trial and when forced to play district attorney in the main characters' trial, he is trying his best to get them as screwed as possible.
  • Horned Hairdo: The Devil sports these in his human form, though he grows actual horns in his Game Face.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: Emmanuel is extremely nice to the sinners, even to João when he makes a insensitive remark about him being black, while also calling him out about it.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Curiously, this is used in defense of someone else rather than their own, when the Virgin Mary justifies that João had to rely on his own wits just to barely survive in the arid wasteland that is the Northeast.
  • Lovable Coward: Chicó.
  • Magical Negro: Jesus (or Emmanuel as he is called in the movie) is depicted as a black man, however its established that is simply one form he choose to assume.
  • Marry for Love: Rosinha's father will only marry her to a valiant man who is able to pay up the necessary dowry, but she is in love with Chicó. They are only able to stay together after her father disowns her.
  • Patron Saint: The Virgin Mary to João and other characters. Truth in Television as the Brazilian Northeast is staunchly Catholic and her figure is seriously revered by the population.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Joćo makes a racist remark against Jesus (who is black in this movie), who takes it stride, but not without calling him out about it.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Severino's lieutenant isn't particularly Axe-Crazy as his boss and only does as he is told. He even comments this when he is about to gun down João for tricking him into murdering Severino:
    This is the first time I kill someone for pleasure!
  • Red Right Hand: The lead bandit Severino is blind in his right eye.
  • Satan: He plays an important role in the movie's climax as he holds the deceased characters on trial for their sins.
  • Shout-Out: The subplot regarding Chicó's marriage to Rosinha or risking loosing a pound of flesh to her father is obviously lifted from The Merchant of Venice.
  • Uptown Girl: Rosinha, the daughter of a powerful landowner falls in love to Chicó, a poor as dirt baker's assistant.
  • Villain Has a Point: Satan wants to eternally damn the main cast after their deaths. Though to be fair, the accusations against them aren't wrong or inaccurate: the priest and the bishop were corrupt as heck, Eurico and Dora were bad bosses to their employees, Severino killed many innocents and João's charges include inciting simony and adultery, scamming and premeditated murder!
  • Your Cheating Heart: The baker's wife Dora is cheating him with at least three different men at the same time.
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