Avant-Garde · Brazil · Criterion Collection · Silent Film

#877 Limite (1931)


#877 Limite

1931 // Brazil // Mário Peixoto

Criterion Collection (LINK)

I was privileged to have the opportunity to watch the restored Limite several years ago at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. All I knew before stepping into the theater was that Limite is a silent Brazilian film, and it is a myth. Directed by Mário Peixoto, who died in 1992 at the age of 84 without making another film, the film itself was firstly shown at a private session for members and guests of the Chaplin Club in 1931. There was no commercial screening afterwards and only shown at rare occasion. Ten years later, another special screening was organised to show the film to Orson Welles who was making the film It’s All True in Brazil. What did Welles think of the film we couldn’t know, but after some arduous efforts in restoring the film, we can finally watch the most prestigious and readily available version of Limite and contemplate our own thoughts eighty-six years after the film was released.

There are still heavy scratches of the print, and a section where the First Man saves the Second Woman is beyond repaired and is replaced by caption only. Still the viewing experience is nonetheless mesmerising and enchanting. It’s almost impossible to retell a concrete story from what I saw. Limite is not a narrative film so to speak, it’s close to pure cinema where images spoke for themselves. From the first image of a close-up of a woman standing between cuffed hands and glaring at us, to the fierce waves of the expanse of sea under the glowing sunlight near the end of the film, the visual links are all there to bound the film as an entirety. The story is not the major concern but the overall rhythm, the rhythm where images concealed instead of revealed, the rhythm where the preceding image fused with the upcoming one as a montage, the rhythm which acts as a limitation within the limitless imagination.

Like dancing or music, Limite encourages the emergence of feeling or emotion instead of deductive logic. There are a man and two women confined in a sailing boat, their perilous situation is then intercut with flashbacks (could be imaginations or fantasies?) in-between. But who’re they? Who’s the man in the graveyard? Who’s the woman escaped in prison? Why did they end up in the same boat lost at sea? Even after rewatching, more questions arise than being answered. Images are recorded as the idea of the filmmaker and left the part of interpretation solely be the spectators’ responsibility. But instead of interpreting in complete freedom, we are actually limited by our preset understanding of the images (handcuff = crime) and our presumption of certain values. Limite challenges the  limitation of conception, and let the free flowing camera to find new perspective and thereby enable itself to be perceived differently in different viewers. Limite is obscure and repulsive to comprehension, and is apparently limited to certain spectators for appreciation, and I’m lucky to join the club.
Film Raing: 4.5/5

One thought on “#877 Limite (1931)

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