Posted by Daniel Sá on May 12, 2012 in Daniel Serravalle de Sa, Guest Blog tagged with film, Tropical Gothic
As Filhas do Fogo (1978), or The Daughters of Fire, is exemplary of the Gothic’s transnational characteristics. The film portrays two young women whose stay at a colonial manor in the Brazilian countryside is afflicted by paranormal events and mysterious deaths. In the course of the narrative, they become acquainted with a mysterious family friend, an elderly lady who claims to record the voices of the dead. Soon, the female characters find themselves haunted by the ghost of one of the girls’ mothers. Whilst the dividing line between this world and the next is obscured, family secrets are revealed and the situation escalates to a nightmarish finale. Ultimately, the luxuriant Brazilian forest envelops the entire house and the remnants of the eerie life and death spectacle that occurred there. Brazilian filmmaker Walter Hugo Khouri (pronounced 'Curry') is no stranger to the horror genre; his previous films Estranho Encontro (1958) and O Anjo da Noite (1974) are - alongside José Mojica Marins’ Coffin Joe trilogy - among some the most significant Brazilian horror productions.
Lesbians and unvoiced others: from domesticity to nationhood
The situation experienced by three female characters in the film foregrounds issues of particular interest to discourses of gender, race, and nationhood. The assonance in their names (Ana, Diana, Mariana) suggests they can be seen as interrelated characters that represent different aspects of problems concerning the situation of the woman in society (fig.1). More to the point, a society that condemns women’ relationships with members of their own sex (Ana), motherhood and pregnancy as a problematic relationship with body (Diana) and a culture that determines women’ entrapment in the domestic sphere (Mariana).
(fig.1 - Ana, Diana and Mariana: tripartite female psyche)
Set in an unnamed community in the countryside of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil, As Filhas do Fogo stands out from the majority of Khouri’s production, usually set in the urban environment of São Paulo city. The particularity of the location is emphasised by means of scenes that focus on the frosty climate of southern Brazil, the predominantly European heritage of its inhabitants and lines such as ‘your house looks like a little castle’, in reference to the Germanic architecture brought by the immigrants that populated the region. This representation seeks to tr