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The city of God – film analysis

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The city of God is very dramatic film that depicts themes of social inequality and poverty, cruelty and racial discrimination, as well as the themes of the importance of making a choice and having hope.

Unfortunately, some of topics that were raised by this film are still of current interest nowadays. From the first minutes, you start to feel atmosphere of uncontrolled and unreasonable violence. People there think that fear means respect, they reckon that only way to get respect is to kill somebody.

This movie appears to be even more thrilling if you get to know that it was based on actual events in 60th and 70th in Rio de Janeiro.

The city of God looks more like city of sins. Most of norms of moral and humaneness are forgotten here. The city where the life the does not cost anything, the city the that is ruled by cruelty, greediness, and depravity.

To be honest, it may be quite shocking to see kids with guns. The more shocking is to see smile on little boy’s face after he shoots more than ten people. You may feel shivers down your spine after looking into those kid’s eyes (and here we should mention great play of actors, many of whom were amateurs, recruited from the favela the Brazilian ghetto). There was phrase said by one gangster. This short phrase conveys very deep significance and shows us an extremely ill way of thinking and perceiving world. Here it is:

“I smoke; I snort, I have killed and robbed – I’m a man.”

The gangster who said these words was around ten years old.

These unfortunate children do not see another future but to join underworld. “Runts,” criminal group of kids most of whom are younger than eight, robs, murders, and joins the drugs ring. Their group seriously plans to become the leaders of the favela. The city leading has always been in the hands of the drug dealers. A problem of the lack of education should be mentioned here: these kids have no access and time for school because it is more important for them just to survive. Their main teachers are the streets of the favela. It is brilliantly shown through the film, when the runts discuss their black murder list, and one of them asks:

“Who here knows how to write?”,

and only one of them responds:

“A little.”

In the film the city of God, we can see a sick society, that was diseased with a primary lapse of sanity.

“Honesty doesn’t pay,” as the characters, the film thinks.

But who is guilty in this appalling situation? Kids with the wrong priorities? Mothers who must sell the drugs to feed their children? Teenagers that have no good example to follow? Young men, who just can’t get a normal job only because of the background they have and the only way to get some money for them is to kill and rob? On the one hand, they act inappropriately, and their doings are dreadful, but, on the other hand, what have spurred all these people on such a rocky road? Was it their own choice? The last question might be doubtful, and you should consider it after watching this movie; all of us can understand, that not looking at their horrible actions it was not their fault only.

What made thousands of people act so brutally and ferociously? Everyone may give his or her answer, but what comes to my mind first is just one word: indifference. The indifference can turn a human into a violent predator. In this film, we can see a total insensibility of the whole universe to this little-closed world of forgotten, unwanted and outcast people. Life the favela lives and events that happen there just do not affect the outer world. The media shows only bloody crimes, and people who are lucky and wealthy watch them just like you would watch the animals in the zoo. They have a weird feeling, a feeling of interest and disgust. Instead of trying to find a way to help those poor people, they prefer to find a reason to feel their superiority and do nothing about it.

All the people seem to be just abandoned within the favela. Most of them can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are born in the darkness, they live a whole life in the darkness, and they die in the darkness into the favela.
The film portrays one more problem that is closely connected with the previous one and that, unfortunately, exists nowadays: it is a problem of racial discrimination. People have no rights and are killed by police with impunity just because of their ethnic background; they have a tiny chance for a bright future only because of their skin color. It is so ugly and inappropriate that it cannot have any excuses or reasons. Racism has divided the society into “us” and “them,” and the film raises this issue in a pointedly way. Sadly, people of the outer world, and the cops consider everybody is living in the slums the hoodlums.

Speaking about police, by the way, the movie depicts all of them in a precisely bad manner. It exposes their savagery and bribability, as in one of the final scenes (but I am not going to make a spoiler here, you should see it yourself).

The film brings you a strong feeling of hopelessness, desolation, and despair, as you can see no future for these boys and this community. There is one more important problem raised by this film. It is a theme of choice – a moral choice and a choice of your future, no matter how hard the life and the circumstances are. The choice of the main character, the Rocket, brings us a small hope. In the city of God, we see the life through his eyes, and it is obvious that he does not fit into this gang lifestyle. We see the scenes where he tries to commit the crime, but his soul is innocent, and the still small voice in his head does not allow him to act brutally wrong. Rocket does not want to spend his life as his peers do, and he is searching for a way out of this vicious circle. He is strong enough to take another path: he has a dream to become a photographer, and his fate is ironic but still merciful. Rocket makes the right choice and achieves his goals.

The city of God is hundred percent worth seeing. The film structure is very unusual, as it is divided into different parts by many scenes and sub-scenes. Lives of main hero, all the other characters, and the scenes that show lives of the streets with their dust, dogs, and chicks are strongly connected. In such a way, it looks like the city has its personality and appears to be not less than one more character itself. We highly recommend you to watch this movie as it can reveal new plot of the ordinary life.


  • Hannah Perry, Film Production Student Follow. “City of God – Analysis.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 13 May 2013, www.slideshare.net/hannahperry16/city-of-god-analysis.
  • Griffin, Jo. “Why I Love … the Depiction of the Favela in City of God.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Sept. 2013, www.theguardian.com/film/2013/sep/25/why-i-love-city-of-god-favela.
  • Bowen, Jaden. “’City of God’ Scene Analysis – Jaden Bowen – Medium.” Medium, Medium, 27 June 2016, medium.com/@1005663/city-of-god-scene-analysis-4afb578951de.

Read also:

The Good the Bad and the Ugly
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