Memories of Prison
(Memórias do cárcere)
(Memoirs of Prison)
Carlos Vereza, Glória Pires, Joffre Soares, Paulo Porto,
“The prison in my film is a metaphor of Brazilian society . . . the jail of social and political conventions that still represses the Brazilian people” (dos Santos). In the thirties, the Vargas dictatorship’s witch hunts captured many a leftist, including the writer Graciliano Ramos (Barren Lives), who was secretary of education in his home state of Alagoas. Ramos’s autobiographical novel, and dos Santos’s film, charts a writer’s nightmare descent into hell—first among other political prisoners in Rio de Janeiro, then with common criminals in an island concentration camp. But it is also a transformation, a liberation of sorts, as the solitary, aloof author evolves into a more committed human being. Now his writing, hard-won, is a part of the life of the prison, and therefore of life. Interestingly, during this time, Ramos’s wife undergoes a similar evolution of commitment to her husband and the politics of his imprisonment.