Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is a film by Bruno Barreto which had become a sensation in the 1970s. The acting in the film by Sonia Braga stands apart in a category of its own in view of being the refined personification of Brazilian coarseness in the context of the nudity and sex scenes that are common in Brazilian movies. The movie is seen as being crowded with an entertaining range of wastrels and proletarian workers, frauds and poets. The film is bawdy and raucous and begins with a bang; a raging carnival with dancing and live music with revelers enjoying in colorful outfits with lot of feathers. In stark contrast with issues that are socially significant, the film provides a glimpse into offerings of titillating and entertaining Bahian types of carnival festivities with the scintillating local color that will put any viewer in a frenzy of excitement. Candomble sequences in the film are shown to be sparkling with colorful costumes.
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The film is an adaptation of the novel by Jorge Amado and depicts the sex charade in keeping with the logic and clarity of a folk story. The production of the film has treated the story quite lightly by treating the ludicrous constituents very broadly in overselling the sex throughout the film.
The beautiful Dona Floripides (Sonia Braga) is married to a handsome young man named Valdmiro who does not respect any conventions of society. He spends his nights in whoring, gambling, and drinking, but at the same time acts as if he is very loyal to his wife. Dona Flor is however in love with him and suffers a great deal due to his unworthy ways and once she also gets badly beaten up and humiliated due to the huge debts that her husband has incurred as a result of his gambling habit. Her love for her husband knows no bounds which is evident from the friendship she initiates with a prostitute who she believes is carrying Valdmiro’s baby. However tragedy strikes Dona Flor when her husband suddenly dies while dancing in a carnival.
Dona Flor gets over the loss of her husband after she meets Teodoro Madureira, a pharmacist and falls in love with him. Her new lover is considered a moral, sober and steady man, who unlike Valdmiro, is unable to satisfy her sexually, about which she is immensely concerned. The film however takes a sudden turn when Dona Flor’s husband Valdmiro miraculously returns from the grave to her immense joy.
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is an honest, witty and intelligent film about human relationships. There is a balance between sensuality and vulgarity that is portrayed with the brazen softcore nudity while skirting the acceptable limits in this regard. The movie goes into the minutest of details such as the heavy breathing of Braga that convinces the viewer that sex is a vital human activity, which is done without compromising on the quotient of respectability. A lot of flavor has been added to the sexual tone in the film by way of the colorful and fashionable costumes of the 1940s, and the houses though appear to be in a crumbling state are not devoid of the welcome tone in them. The photography of the film portrays fresh greenery that soothes the eye and the lush music gives a taste of Brazilian culture and folklore. The church too has a place in the film when Valdmiro tricks a priest into putting his money into a scheme of gambling by luring him into imagining the face of a carved angel as that of Virgin Mary. This gives the impression that the film does not spare religion also into being made a part of the culture as portrayed in it.
The film conveys that as far as happiness and love are concerned everything is ok. Men and women find several ways of working out relationships which are very rarely considered as fair by standards as set by society. It is fine if a prostitute has a baby and her lover does not meet her frequently, but she feels quite satisfied and fulfilled in having a healthy baby. Dona Flor is not seen as being very contented with her husband Valdmiro, but at the same time she appears to be very crazy about him. The people at his funeral clearly conveyed that he was a loving person which reveals the immense popularity he enjoyed amongst the people with whom he engaged in his unworthy ways. The marriage of Dona Flor with Teodoro Madureira who is considered to be a good person, is in the nature of defying logic as also the minimum level of decency, but that is portrayed as being the ideal solution for her. She is seen to be quite happy with this arrangement and in this context the film is viewed as being one that does not portray the classic realism expected of a moralist story. It is rather unrealistic to see Dona Flor as she proudly strolls out of the church hand in hand with her two husbands; one portraying the picture of a respectable man and the other of a naked rogue. However, the film may have been schematic, but it surely has a happy ending. The film may be having several faults but the audience would surely not have minded in view of the contagious nature of the onstage party.