Fifty Percent of the Scenes in the Brazilian Film Malasartes Have Special Effects

Jesuita Barbosa on the set of Malasartes and the Duel with Death



8/10/2017 1:00 am

The first 15 minutes of Malasartes e o Duelo com a Morte (Malasartes and the Duel with Death) may fool those who enter the cinema looking for the Brazilian film with the greatest quantity of special effects in history.

The initial sequence can even seem like we’re revisiting territory we’ve seen so many times before. There’s the rural universe with its characteristics, the rural girl, country r’s, and the clever country lad, played by Jesuita Barbosa.

It’s when we see the realm of Death, played by Julio Andrade, that this feature film by Paulo Morelli reveals the R$ 4.5 million spent just on visual effects, involving half of the film’s scenes. The total budget of the film, which opens this Thursday, August 10, is R$ 13 million.

In his hidden world, Death flies and floats through the air in the blink of an eye. When Pedro Malasartes (Jesuita) appears there, he also floats and plays with the thousands of candles that represent every human life on the planet. In one of the scenes, a character is pulled by several of them which pull him this way and that.

The digital construction of this universe required a team of a hundred people according to Morelli’s calculations, as well as two years to complete the film’s post-production.

Ropes tied to the actors helped create the illusion of free flight. “Chroma key,” the green screen, was used to create the film’s fantasy sets.

“It was difficult because a lot of this is new in this country. No one knew exactly how to solve certain things,” the director says. It did help that O2, the production company of which Morelli is a partner, has an arm that works with advertising, where special effects aren’t a novelty.

He gives us an idea of the work involved: just between last Thursday, August 2 and Sunday, August 6, when Malasartes premiered at the Cine Ceará Festival, more than one hundred scenes were reworked.

In 2015, when Folha visited the set of this feature film in the interior of the state of São Paulo, Morelli said that he expected to produce something like Tim Burton or the film version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by the New Zealander Peter Jackson.

He adds: “But with Brazilian characteristics.” The Fates, the mythical Greek characters led by Vera Holtz, were inspired by thread weavers of the Northeast, for example.


In the story, Jesuita interprets the conman Malasartes, a roguish figure from Iberian folklore which has already been played by Mazzaropi in the cinema and by Renato Aragão on TV.

Between one scam and another, this con man has to deal with the irritable brother of his fiancé (Isis Valverde), played by Milhem Cortaz, and with Death himself, who is tired of his work snuffing out lives and wants this con artist to take his place.

The cast also includes Leandro Hassum as Death’s assistant and Augusto Madeira as one of Malasartes’s victims.

“Malasartes is a con man, but he doesn’t cross a certain ethical line; he doesn’t hurt people,” says the diretor. “He’s very Brazilian, improvising using his wits.”

And it’s this Brazilian character more than the picture’s visual exuberance that he hopes to use to attract the public. “I’m betting on purity in the midst of our contemporary cynicism.”