Limite is a very old and a reasonably unknown Silent film, at least outside Brazil. Filmed in 1930 by Mário Peixoto, the film was screened in 1931 but despite some interest the film faded from memory and was thought lost, it was eventually found again and restored by 1978. The funny thing about Limite is it is a very very rare thing to be talked about, at least in English, it appears to major in Brazil, so most of the deconstruction and the history is in Portuguese so all I can work off in terms of history is some scant English interest in the film. Nonetheless after being at least partially restored the film became increasingly popular and is regarded by many as the greatest Brazilian film of all time, and a masterpiece of cinema.
Now the film itself is very experimental, it loves to let it’s shots move around, zoom in and out, and even wave around from side to side. This typically works to the films advantage, though to be honest there are times in which it feels pointless and worn out, such as a scene where it zooms into a fountain quickly and uses that same quick about 15 times in a minute, usually though the shots are quite interesting.
The most fascinating thing to me about these shots in the fact that they often just let us gaze and reflect, and none of them are interrupted by a quick change of shot. They very often slowly fade into one another while somber music plays, which gives us this effect of just melancholy. It is also very effective in the way is uses these fades such as when it shows the wheels of a train which fades into the wheels of a sewing machine. The shots honestly make this film feel like a dream, they sit for such a long time you think more about the film while gazing at what is wonderful scenery. However the film does not just use it for pretty scenes, it very much loves show don’t tell, one memorable instance is where they let you see a mans wedding ring, and though they never zoom in on it, you can see the womens wedding ring on in the next shot. Instances like this litter the film aplenty.
The story is left somewhat to the wayside, though intrigue is there at the start, with the story beginning with three people on a boat in the middle of the ocean, it doesn’t fascinate us too much in terms of content, their backstories which are revealed in flashback are just average. We aren’t here for story, we are here for the atmosphere. It portrays this feeling of just somberness and sadness, of slight misery. Nothing strong emotionally, just this underlying feeling of depression pervades the film. It’s what the shots do with their long takes, they combine with the music and make us feel ever so slightly sad.
The reason for all of this is because this is a film about life, of how we feel throughout it, it is an extended piece of the somberness of it all. It portrays to us the feeling of the beauty of the world, but also how to us we can often just sit there and think. One could call it disillusionment but if the film does portray that, it seeks to offer no answer to such a question. The film ends as it begins, with our main character gazing at the sea, just thinking it seems, or perhaps in wonder, or even amazement of the world. Sure the boat is gone, but nothing really has changed in her personality.
This is very special because honestly it is very hard for a film to bring this feeling across without words, or even symbolism. There is nothing of the sort here in my opinion, all that it is, is a journey of misery. All of the three on the boat have some bad thing in their past, and all meet a different fate. However how does it matter really? Things change for us, circumstances in our lives, our friends can die, we can lose our house, our everything and all that will be left, all that perhaps can be left, is no great fear of death, no triumphant love of life, no, none of that. What Limite posits to us, throughout its film, is that despite the awfulness of it all perhaps the only thing that really matters to us and will contain our lives, that defines us. Is a feeling of melancholy, that feeling you get while gazing into the sea, the seemingly endless ocean, its grandness, its wonder and all you can do is stare with a slight feeling of sadness.
I do apologize for perhaps the slightly philosophical nature of what I am saying and if it is pretentious I again apologize. It is just that Limite is such a wondrous film, a film you just think about, the thing that is special about it to me, isn’t just its directing and cinematography, those are important yes, but to me the thing that defines it is the feeling it gives to you while watching, of melancholy and of how perhaps constant that melancholy is in life no matter the changes. The one thing about this film I can say for sure though, is that for this and its cinematography it is well worth a watch, despite the fact it is hard to find, if you can find a way, go and watch it, it is a fantastic film and in general just a wondrous journey that should forever be remembered as a hallmark of Brazilian Film.