A Very Crazy Asylum
(Azyllo muito louco)
Nildo Parente, Isabel Ribeiro, Arduíno Colasanti, Irene Stefânia,
With the increased repression of a new military regime in 1968, political necessity became the mother of cinematic invention—indirection and allegory. A Very Crazy Asylum was a clever subversion of a classic novel by Machado de Assis. The story concerns a priest/psychiatrist who convinces the powers-that-be in a small Brazilian town that the mental health of its citizens must be attended to—then keeps changing the criteria for admission to his hospital so that, in the end, all are candidates for the loony bin. Echoing Brazil’s ever-elastic political blacklist, the film also is a witty dissection of what happens when an institution loses direction and usefulness, but carries on regardless. Only then is it clear where the real powers be. In a film of radical experimentation, dos Santos uses the electronic music of Guilherme Magalhães Vaz like an alienist—in the Brechtian sense.