Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media


Realistic Intermediality and the Historiography of the Present

Marcela Amaral


[Abstract] [PDF]



I would like to begin this article by explaining what led me to explore Beto Brant’s film O invasor (The Trespasser, 2001) in search of intermedial and realist traces. First, the film’s blunt depiction of reality is groundbreaking for a 1990s cultural production as it retrieves and renews elements from traditional Brazilian genres and film movements concerned with exposing Brazilian social problems and contradictions. Second, the film’s employment of music provides an access point to observe and examine everyday reality amongst diverse socioeconomic groups. So, investigating O invasor’s treatment of reality through intermediality could be crucial to unveiling the film’s mechanisms toproduce realism. In particular, I will examine the concept of intermediality through Ágnes Pethő’s perspective, as “a manner to comprehend the interactions of different media manifest in the other media”, such as cinema (1).

In focusing on realism and intermedia, this article uses Pethő’s intermedial definition as a starting point and draws from realist film theory by André Bazin and Lúcia Nagib. Another significant resource that is relevant to my research is interview footage of director Beto Brant in conversation with Lúcia Nagib and Samuel Paiva for the documentary film Passages: Travelling in and out of Film Through Brazilian Geography (2019), in which he offers insight and reflects on the production experience for O invasor twenty years prior. Here, Brant discusses various aspects of the film’s production process, often attempting to explain how the creation of a fictional world, so close to known reality, can approximate and at the same time, stray from reality itself. While the information obtained in the interview cannot be read simply as undisputed evidence of truth, it remains an interesting source of data that helps to problematise the process of filmmaking in contemporary Brazilian cinema. The director’s perspective on the filmmaking process also serves as complementary information to what is seen in the film, sometimes even serving as its opposite.

O invasor tells the story of a crime planned by two partners (Ivan [Marco Ricca] and Gilberto [Alexandre Borges]) of a construction company, who hire Anísio (a killer on the socioeconomic periphery, played by Paulo Miklos) to murder their third partner, Estevão (George Freire), who is stalling a fraudulent negotiation between the company and a government agent. After the murder takes place, the hired killer reveals his intention to work at the construction company and, even more, to take part in São Paulo’s elite lifestyle, within which the film is located. Anísio trespasses over the socioeconomic barrier that separates him from the two partners and involves himself with the company’s daily processes, causing enormous tension with the remaining partners, Ivan and Gilberto. He also proceeds to romantically pursue Marina (Mariana Ximenes), Estevão’s daughter, and with it, a place at the top of that society.

In 1995, Brazilian cinema had resumed its film production after a five-year hiatus with the downturn and subsequent government disbanding of the national film agency Embrafilme in 1990. O invasor belongs to a new period known as Retomada do Cinema Brasileiro (Brazilian Film Revival), which includes Brazilian films that represent national issues by addressing them through local and social themes (Nagib; Heise). No longer from a political and modernisterspective as in Cinema Novo, this era of Brazilian cinema “interact[s] with modern, postmodern and commercial cinemas of the world, thus benefiting from and contributing to a new transnational cinematic aesthetics” (Nagib xix). Confirming the film’s tendency to be in dialogue with cinemas from different times and aesthetic forms while shaping its realism within present-day realities, Nagib clarifies that O invasor is a contemporary descendant of an underground and marginal cinema from São Paulo in the 1960s and 70s that brought a “dirty” and “violent” realism, with a strong documentary appeal (122).

So, while Nagib considers the underground film aesthetics as “the Brazilian response to a process that, throughout the 1980s, had kept cinema under the threat of imminent death through narrative dissolution, nostalgic metalanguage and the rise of video, whose adepts rejoiced in forecasting cinema’s complete disappearance”, O invasor’s film aesthetics incorporate a dirty and critical vision of underground cinema and language (xviii). This includes a complex portrayal of São Paulo’s urbanised social and artistic variety, particularly expressed through the film score. So, as Márcia Silva’s notes, it “becomes a vehicle for Brazilian realities with contemporary clothing” (2).[1]

In addition to its strong realistic appeal, O invasor is concerned with articulating and configuring the country’s cultural identity. As Tatiana Heise points out, “some of the most successful films of the 1995–2010 period can be read as direct explorations or reworkings of the question ‘what is Brazil?’” (56). I would also argue that O invasor distances itself from a poor and artificial dualism of social class antagonism, and instead reproduces (and also produces) a realism that explores the conflicting relationship between these social strati configured by division and proximity, differentiation and provocation, contrast and complicity. In the end, these tensions help situate the viewer closer to the realities of Brazil’s social structures.

So, it is crucial to highlight the relevance of this complex social stratification in conversation with other aesthetics and media. For instance, music in its many formats (video clip, soundtrack, hip-hop performance, etc.) is of central importance to the film’s visual and sound composition, along with the characters, their social status and the geography they occupy: the hip-hop ghettos, the brothels visited frequently by the elite, and the bars in slums and affluent locations.

Although São Paulo has a complex spatial occupation, less determined by zones and more by neighbourhoods, it is possible to perceive in O invasor that the elite’s circulation occurs in more central locations, where there is a massive presence of skyscrapers, straight-line constructions and numerous cars, while the areas occupied by the poorest are visibly further apart from the urban centre and are constituted by simpler houses, small businesses and shabby bars.

The film’s handheld shots allow for a more general view of the city rather than pointing to precise geographical identifiers and so only very local inhabitants and the director Brant have knowledge of the exact locations in which the film is shot. For example, in his recorded interview, it is Brant who provides more specific information on the images shot on the periphery, revealing that they were located in the region of Vila Brasilândia, in the North zone of São Paulo, a well-known impoverished neighbourhood. Despite its vague visual overview of the urban geographies, the film persists in making evident the social division in the city, which is reflected in the film’s multiple shots of the urban periphery’s atmosphere and aural ambience combined with the urban film score.

Observing the central role music plays in the film, this article aims to explore the nature of the relationship between realism and intermediality within it. Music in O invasor functions as a powerfully appealing tool that represents the socioeconomic realities of Brazilian society. So, through textual analysis, I will investigate the film’s extensive use of different music styles from Brazilian artists and its associations with particular social and geographical spheres. This approach also raises several questions: can the uses of intermediality in this film be understood as a historiographic tool that helps to portray a singular space and time in São Paulo and more generally in recent Brazilian social and cultural history? Is there a direct connection between the film’s intermediality and its realistic appeal? And (how) can we speak of a “realistic intermediality”?

Concerning the film’s production of realism, O invasor may demonstrate a realistic appeal that relies not only on the subject matter and narrative schemas but also employs a method that oscillates between fiction and nonfiction, causing tension between these two spheres. The nonfiction scope contains many elements that are not immediately taken as fictional, as they seem to attend more to the intention of a continuous register of its recorded space and actions. The film presents different arrangements with these two modes in order to produce different realistic appeals while portraying the elite and those who inhabit São Paulo’s periphery. Certain film sequences, such as a nightclub scene occupied by the elite, for instance, help to reinforce the notion of a fictional narrative. Conversely, scenes that portray peripheral spaces and characters’ actions across the diverse urban geographies of São Paulo make more evident the intention to place reality in relief. As in Lúcia Nagib’s words, “document and fiction, conflicting elements as well as basic prerogatives of cinema, constitute the main problem concerning this film as much as its key” (117).


The Nightclub Sequence

Nagib’s observation not only recognises the use of oscillating parameters but also points out the existence of two distinct intentions in the film: fiction and document. In an interview with Beto Brant, Nagib associates the notion of “document” with Brant’s intention to register the surrounding reality that enables a “documentary effect” (119), rather than focusing on creating a documentary film with documentary methods. It becomes evident that, for Nagib and Brant, the film’s shift between fiction and documentary helps to make visible or enhance realism more than if the filmmaker had chosen to produce a documentary film about São Paulo:

So, this intention to register São Paulo, it is remarkable, especially with the use of the long take and Toca Seabra’s hand-held camera, that goes from external to internal spaces. [...] Every time. It is a recurring procedure in the movie. It shows [spatial] continuity: [the camera] enters the company from the street, he [Toca Seabra] goes up the stairs without cutting. Or in a karaoke in Liberdade, it moves out and moves in. You can see you really got in. Or in the nightclub he enters. Then there is an attempt to tamper, to anchor that whole story into reality, this is practically documentary. (Brant)

This image produces what Nagib calls a documentary effect in the film, in which the camera employs a tracking or over-the-shoulder shot to explore characters as they navigate through urban spaces. As the film progresses, the shift between fictional and documentary aesthetic registers becomes more evidently determined by which social status is being portrayed and presented to the viewer. For example, scenes that explore the elite experience and geographical spaces are predominantly and visibly fictional, seemingly part of a well-arranged mise en scène that alternates between fictional images and images produced with documentary methods where fictional elements are still visible. It results in a distinct realistic appeal where documentary visuality enhances the notion of realism. In contrast, when the periphery is in focus, there is a visible intent to document the surrounding urban landscape rather than using it as a mere backdrop to a fictional story. Yet, one other use of this oscillating mechanism becomes visible when the character Ivan, who belongs to the elite social stratus, suddenly finds himself stranded in the urban outskirts, running across an expressway. The exact opposite occurs when a peripheric element is placed in the elite’s space, as it happens when the rapper Sabotage, originally from the urban outskirts, arrives at the construction firm’s central office. In both cases, which I will analyse later, the fictional elements clash with the profilmic reality of São Paulo’s city streets. The movements between real and fictional situations are rendered through the application of long takes, montage and music.

For example, in a scene set in a nightclub, Brant employs a montage sequence to enhance the club’s frenetic and lively atmosphere of young and rich people dancing and drinking. The camera is then positioned directly behind Ivan as he enters the club space and proceeds to weave his way through the crowd, maintaining both a stylistic camera movement while also moving “in a radical, organic way” (Nagib 117), nearly bumping into clubgoers. It cuts to a facial close-up, revealing Ivan’s visible tension as this sequence is preceded by a scene in which he has connected with Anísio, who has persuaded both partners to conduct business together. In music video sequence fashion, the extradiegetic club music is brought to the foreground while the ambient sounds become muted. The montage sequence presents images of people dancing, musicians playing and Ivan walking. Reinforcing the notion of fictional mise en scène, most of the nightclub’s patrons are oblivious to the camera’s presence, despite shooting in close proximity and “on-the-fly”. However, the crowd’s intermittent gaze toward the camera helps stimulate a shift to the documentary mode (Figures 1 and 2).


Amaral Fig 1-2
Figures 1 and 2: While Ivan walks through the crowded nightclub, a few club goers are aware of the camera’s presence. O invasor (The Trespasser, Beto Brant, 2001). Drama Filmes, 2001. Screenshots.


Overall, the nightclub scene’s deliberate staging and music video-inspired montage sequence maintain a stylised aesthetic that aligns with the more affluent lived experience but also presents moments associated with a documentary mode as brief glances towards the camera materialise when Ivan walks through the crowded club. However, this is a fiction film, composed of a well-structured causal narrative and fictional characters played by professional and nonprofessional actors; “it does not impair the documentary effect, suggesting that this derives not from the story but from the way it is told” (Nagib 119).


Film Score and Intermediality

Although O invasor is a fictional narrative, it realistically portrays the social abyss that exists within São Paulo. For example, from the first scene in which the periphery is displayed, the camera emphasises the slum landscapes. Unlike the film’s depiction of an elite’s life, he image shifts to a documentary register mode when it explores geographical poverty and government neglect in the community. In one montage sequence, Anísio and Marina traverse by vehicle through a socioeconomically deprived neighbourhood. The extra diegetic music, the rap song “Na Zona Sul” (“In the South Zone”) performed by Sabotage that describes the hard life in this impoverished area, provides an aural and visual narrative synchronicity. Here, the car travels past an elderly woman perched outside her home and directing her gaze toward the passing camera, then proceeds to survey old, ramshackle houses and an open-air dumpster and so on, observing the everyday in the slums. Shots alternate between the car’s interior and exterior space. This whole sequence differs strongly from the film’s dominant fictional visuality as it is not based on a visibly controlled and choreographed mise en scène, but with a combination of cuts to the musical rhythm of a music video sequence with no relevant narrative intent (Figures 3 and 4).


Amaral Fig 3-4
Figures 3 and 4: Beto Brant depicts the urban periphery with a gritty realist aesthetic and
employs a stylised look to a nightclub scene. O invasor. Drama Filmes. Screenshots.

Throughout the film, musical styles reflect different socioeconomic positions and cultural landscapes. The film’s score is composed mostly of hip-hop songs, five of them appearing in Sabotage’s album Rap é compromisso! (Rap Is Commitment!, 2000) and all of them bringing into relief a critical view over Brazilian society’s matters and socioeconomic gaps, including the rap song “Na Zona Sul” which is played in the slums. Conversely, characters Giba and Ivan navigate through rock-n-roll, Bossa Nova, MPB[2] numbers and lysergic electronic music, highlighting their individual issues and desires. These popular numbers do not present critical perspectives, apart from the rock ballad “Orgia” (“Orgy”), originally composed by Paulo Miklos (who plays Anísio in the film) and performed during a karaoke scene. The location serves as a cover for a firearms business and so it is here that Ivan acquires a gun after he feels threatened by Anísio’s incessant presence. The karaoke club is mostly attended by middle class groups seeking cheap entertainment, beer and snacks. Using a long take, the camera follows Ivan as he enters the karaoke club, is accompanied by a man who provides a gun transaction and, in a trance-like state, his focus is drawn towards a singer who chants “Orgia”. This song illustrates a relationship between two very different individuals, thereby conveying the film’s examination of the complex relationship between the elite and marginalised. Unsurprisingly, this insertion of “Orgia” occurs in the film’s second half, when music and geography shift away from the strict boundaries between a character’s status and location and toward the unveiling of a complicit relationship between these social strati as both elite and periphery begin to intermingle through music. The musical score, then, becomes predominantly composed of hip-hop music, often entering as a powerful element of difference, both diegetically and extra-diegetically. Hip-hop music is played alongside tense and violent scenes, including the murder of Estevão.

Another example is the hip-hop song “Vai explodir” (“It Will Explode”), which is used in the film’s final moments as Ivan, under intense pressure, sprints through São Paulo’s streets from the periphery to the city centre in search of Gilberto. This sequence occurs after Ivan discovers he has been deceived by his manipulative partner who is closing a fraudulent contract. He desperately tries to locate and confront Gilberto in the city of São Paulo. Armed with a gun and driving in his car around the city, Ivan is so disturbed by this discovery he collides with another car on one of São Paulo’s expressways, which links two disparate city zones and displays the favela as part of its landscape. Followed by the handheld camera in a long take, Ivan flees the accident and sprints across the expressway. He stumbles sinuously and moves out of frame while the camera maintains a fixed gaze on a landscape that reveals impoverished living conditions. As Ivan crosses a socioeconomic threshold, this landscape, drastically different from the elite spaces, helps to heighten the character’s state of fear and anxiety. With the camera framed in a facial closeup, Ivan’s frown is apparent, resulting in a disturbing expression underneath the unflattering yellow-greenish urban lights. The image is built “in the grotesque and expressionist style in which it characterizes the central protagonist and deals with the São Paulo cityscape” (Nagib xiv). The rap song “Vai explodir”, performed by Pavilhão 9, intensifies the scene’s tension with its lyrically blunt criticism of capitalism and the huge social gaps it sustains, as its verses address problems of the marginalised urban inhabitants.

Thus, the camera frames and follows the actor while running and stumbling in front of a real location. Although the image welcomes both fictional and documentary realms, the insertion of a long take emphasises the elite’s awkward positioning within the periphery, which enables a friction between fictional and documentary modes.

This friction or confrontation describes a mechanism that produces clashes between representation and forms of reproducing reality, which frequently occur in the film. The evidence of the confrontation is the critical manner in which film realism relates to reality. While shifting between modes of realism, it constantly reconfigures the image status throwing reality into sharp relief. So, while Ivan acts in continuity to film narrative, the reality that surrounds him is radically distinct from the fictional spaces, portraying an actual peripheral space. This encounter blurs the line that separates fiction from what is not. The product of the confrontation is exactly this distinct level of realism the film offers, which is not an effect of reality but a way to highlight that reality. Separate from conventional realism—or at least from how theory traditionally tackles realism—this one, produced by confrontation, is directly dependent on how the film approaches and absorbs profilmic reality elements. This is the reason I refer to it as a “realism of confrontation”.


Sabotage’s Performance

The inclusion of rapper Sabotage, a nonactor who becomes an important actor/performer in the film, is another area of relevance in terms of the friction between fiction and documentary in O invasor. In actuality, at the time of production Sabotage was a well-known hip-hop artist who originated from a favela in the neighbourhood of Brooklin, São Paulo and one of the songs he produces in the film is a rap protest song named “Um bom lugar” (“A Good Place”). Sabotage composed this song in 2000 for his album Rap é compromisso!, the last album to be released before the artist was violently shot and killed by Sirlei Menezes da Silva, an alleged drug dealer. The rap lyrics involve life in Brooklin and highlight issues that include the honour code, brotherhood in the community, conflicts with police, social gaps and violence.

With five songs originating from one album, rap forms a large part of the film’s soundtrack and so does Sabotage’s major presence as an actor, thereby mixing elements surrounding reality within a fictional story. Moreover, the film allows Sabotage to stage a real (and somewhat unpredictable) performance within its fictional space. This occurs when Anísio invites Sabotage to the construction company to present a hip-hop repertoire for Giba and Ivan. Anísio, who alleges his desire to sponsor Sabotage’s new CD, manages to extort money from the partners who are still pressured by his increasingly invasive presence. In the sequence, Sabotage, playing as an aspiring yet poor rapper, performs to a group of stupefied wealthy men while incorporating a social protest rhythm. As Anísio and Sabotage enter the scene, the handheld camera movements then shift to a fixed wide angle shot that now fits all four characters within the frame. It is noticeable that some movements and the positioning of the characters are rehearsed since the partners provide space so that everyone is framed within the shot. The film, then, reproduces the classic scene schemas of “blocking and revealing” which guides the viewer’s attention and “lets a downstage character occupy a major zone before moving away to reveal another figure that is en route to the foreground” (Bordwell 64) (Figures 5 and 6).


Amaral Fig 5-6
Figures 5 and 6: The “blocking and revealing” schema. O invasor. Drama Filmes. Screenshots.


When Sabotage starts rapping, his physical gestures shift from choreographed motions to a more spontaneous hip-hop performance. Although fictional, it seems disconnected from fiction and is imbued with the music’s rhythm. That is precisely Brant’s intention; for him, Sabotage’s personality and actions in the film oscillate from fiction to an actual music performance register. This is evident in the character’s exaggerated gestures and the slum slang he employs that add humour and authenticity to the scene, while Sabotage’s disregard for the basic rules of acting (with his furtive glances toward the camera) may spoil the filmmaker’s fictional intentions (Figures 7 and 8).


Amaral Fig 7-8 
Figures 7 and 8: Sabotage’s gestures and furtive glances to the camera.
O invasor. Drama Filmes. Screenshots.


What is central here is how Brant uses Sabotage’s presence to evidence the social contrast with the film’s affluent characters. Nevertheless, his hip-hop performance also promotes a contrast but in a fictional, performative manner. While Sabotage moves and directs his gaze toward the camera, the remaining characters maintain their fictional postures and narrative actions. Thus, in this case, confrontation is established by Sabotage’s presence alone, allowing for the introduction of documentary into the fictional realm. Paradoxically, Sabotage is also part of the production of fiction through both his performance and his persona as an artist.

This dissemblance is a crucial element of confrontation in the film and, interestingly, it also provides humour, mainly due to the authenticity and comic timing delivered by Sabotage. When interrupted by Giba during his performance, Sabotage grumbles to Anísio: “Yay, bro, the guy is disgusted with life and didn’t enjoy the rap, Anísio.” Brant views it as a positive and authentic contribution by Sabotage; in his words: “If I did not have Sabotage’s humour in the film, the film would be very hard, would be very pessimistic, and... violent.” At this point, Anísio acts as a bridge between the rigidity of the members and Sabotage’s “revolutionary” attitude; or between actors “disciplined by the mise en scène” (in Brant’s words), and the hip-hop artist’s performance. Anísio is played by Paulo Miklos, also a nonactor at the time of production and a professional musician. When Sabotage raps, Anísio takes part in the performance by producing a beatbox, or a vocal percussion that mimics drum machines.

The rap lyrics expose the trivialisation of violence on the periphery. With protest lyrics and movements, both Sabotage and the marginalised claim a central position within the film’s frame. The handheld camera dives into the performance, excluding the other characters from the shot and, in a biased and organic movement, follows and dances with the rap artist. In Passages, Brant narrates in detail this unique event:

When Paulo enters, introduces the rapper, presents Sabotage... Sabotage is himself... He does not act, he is... Logically he already came with the piece of music he wanted... And Paulo Miklos, who is also a musician, he starts doing that beatbox... It was a surprise, it was not rehearsed, and it contaminates the camera, because the camera, so, Toca Seabra, the handheld camera, it starts to dance too... And as language, the camera is sympathetic to the characters. It is not static in solidarity with the engineers in their rooms. No, it associates with the trespasser.

Here, Brant omits information about the minimal acting instructions he provided to Sabotage. However, it is crucial to see in this whole set of actions the evidence of the type of space the film allows for the unpredictable event to occur and which originates from the reality of the profilmic event. The film establishes a powerful confrontation with its realism: as Sabotage performs an image of himself to the camera, he also allows the camera to capture his real self. That is, while Sabotage’s fiction (the image of himself) is produced from reality, reality is fabricated along the fictional production process and this creates a paradox. The sequence puts in confrontation the same scenario and the two sides of a conflict that is cultivated throughout the film, in criminal as well as in social scope. However, the representation of one of these sides, the periphery, is built from an element that escapes the control of fictional planning and opens space to the unpredictable. In that sense, music is a tool for the eruption of the real.

So, when Brant refers to a camera contaminated by the rhythm of music and hip-hop performance, it is possible to see this as a visible effect of the film’s intermediality. The camera–music–performance connection/triad produces a distinct form of realism, an intermedial realism. It is also interesting to invoke the concept of “impure cinema” as Lúcia Nagib and Anne Jerslev treat it: “Let us first consider Bazin’s provocative use of the expression ‘impure cinema’ to signify a medium contaminated by other forms of art, notably literature and theater” (22). In the film, the camera’s “impurity” is what prevents it from shifting toward extreme fictional narrative or documentary imperatives and instead is under the influence of music and performance. This is an important layer to be identified and comprehended when analysing the image produced by the camera and its subsequent intermedial confrontation with realism.

In this specific case, the confrontation becomes visual and evident but in other situations, some extrafilmic information is required to notice it. I will mention two examples, one of which appears during the actor’s line delivery and one that involves the character’s wardrobe choice. In his interview, Brant reveals several confrontational occurrences, mainly under the presence and due to Sabotage’s spontaneity. For instance, in Passages, Brant describes how he asked Sabotage to put “his own verve” to Anísio’s lines, seeking a more realistic language of those who live on the margins. However, he also reveals how during the filmmaking process, the actors who played Ivan and Gilberto and who followed the original script, said they felt uncomfortable about the unexpected changes, as it made it difficult for them to act without knowing what would happen. According to Brant, the actors’ discomfort adds texture to the film’s social aims, evidenced by a clash between different patterns of social behaviour (gestures, language, clothing, etc.). In his own words, the actors had to “act with the unpredictable”.

With regards to costume design for the film, Brant reveals that the T-shirt worn by Sabotage, which includes a black-and-white woodcut drawing of a child smoking in the foreground and several buildings in the background, similar to a city like São Paulo, did not belong to the film’s intended wardrobe. Although the costume designer requested a change, Sabotage was uncomfortable with the idea and Brant preserved it for the sequence. For Brant, Sabotage’s presence is the consciousness of the other side he depicts in the film. Curiously, on the T-shirt is a phrase that seems to summarise the film’s message: “portraits of Brazil”.


Long Take and Unpredictability

Furthermore, Brant acknowledges his preference for the long take in many of his films, including O invasor. For the filmmaker, the long take has its economical use in terms of saving valuable production time when shooting on location and it also enables him to capture as much detail of the event with his camera. He further reveals how the Steadicam enabled him to traverse a crowded nightclub while recording multiple long takes from various vantage points. Later, in the editing room, he trimmed these long take recordings into segments which appear as a montage sequence or a series of images pieced together, and which allows the filmmaker to manipulate a scene’s sense of rhythm and speed. Nonetheless, the most remarkable moments of the film occur when the continuity of the long take is preserved: when Ivan runs across the expressway and when Sabotage makes an appearance.

André Bazin’s seminal contribution to realist film theory may help to enlighten us at this point. In his work on ontological realism, Bazin deduced that a photographic shot offers a reproduction of the world through the film frame. Without the interference of montage, the long take provides an opportunity for the unpredictable event to heighten a film’s realist intentions. For example, when Sabotage is introduced through a long take, this presents an opportunity for the periphery to fatally and indissolubly occupy spaces that were previously attended by the elite only. Meanwhile, the hip-hop rhythm which invades an office full of wealthy engineers along with the image uncut, helps to create an unpredictable tension that emphasises the collision between two distinct socioeconomic worlds. Throughout the film, Brant gradually builds up this inevitable encounter between disparate social classes to the point that it heightens the tension for when the event does eventually materialise.

I invoke Bazin’s perspective on cinematic realism in the analysis of O invasor to understand how realism is produced under the experience of reality and its unpredictability and as a reminder that cinema is a “vocation in the service of realism” (38). The film makes evident that in the long take, both the representation and reproduction of reality can find a space of expression that reflects socioeconomic issues. Nagib’s concept of “physical realism” is also useful for this analysis as it involves the physical engagement of the film production crew and participants—which is more evident in Sabotage’s hip-hop sequence because of the engagement of the camera and the cast with Sabotage’s improvisation—and also the choices made to produce the image, such as camera positioning and framing in combination with other elements. The theory of ontological realism is also entangled in a tension between reality, camera and human intervention—which may be defined as any choice that modifies the meanings associated with the forms produced by the register. In O invasor, this tension is part of what the film offers as its intense realism.

Following this debate, it is possible to identify that O invasor assumes two different commitments to reality (representation and reproduction) and then puts them into confrontation with one another. The realism of confrontation is essentially built on the “surface” of filmmaking, or better, in the process of film production, and that is what makes it observable from the perspective of the director and from the elements used to construct it.



The idea of portraying such a conflicting and complex social reality may be somewhat audacious, not to say impossible. Nonetheless, this analysis has attempted to answer, among other matters, whether or not intermediality in the film can be understood as a historiographic tool that helps to portray a singular space and time in São Paulo and recent Brazilian social and cultural history, through the film’s spatial and temporal methods. O invasor achieves this by structuring a visible picture of contrasts: elite versus periphery, acting versus performance, representation versus reproduction and planned production versus the unpredictable nature of everyday reality.

This contrast is reinforced with the help of intermediality as the film uses music as a means to characterise its diversified geography and to differentiate the social strati behaviour. It is significant, however, to recognise that hip-hop dominates the film’s score and this may be related to the film’s aims to heighten narrative tension and atmosphere.

Notwithstanding, Sabotage’s performance presents a unique intermedial event in the film. Here the music is used diegetically as the character performs before the camera and the whole figure of Sabotage and his gestures, typical in hip-hop culture, differs radically from the actors’ positioning and acting. The fact that Sabotage is a black male from a Brazilian favela, where the majority of its inhabitants are black, and the partners and also Anísio are played by Caucasian actors who do not derive from the periphery, may be the first visual confrontation between the reproduction of reality and fiction in the scene, or better, it may at the surface of the film be a blunt portrayal of the country’s reality in relation to race and socioeconomic status.

Sabotage’s presence provides a marker of the socioeconomic tensions that exist within the film. His involvement provides a key to understanding the intermedial mode of realism in O invasor, how the film absorbs other media, mainly through the use of music and performance, as a means to reproduce realism. Thus, the realism of confrontation in the film is not the product of a pure unpredictability that surrounds the film production itself but, on the contrary, it is about a very controlled form of realism where power consists of representing reality confronting reality itself.



[1] All of the translations from Portuguese are mine.

[2] Música Popular Brasileira (Brazilian Popular Music).



1. Bazin, André. What Is Cinema? Vol. 1. Translated by Hugh Gray, U of California P, 1967.

2. Bordwell, David. Figures Traced in Light: On Cinematic Staging. U of California P, 2005.

3. Brant, Beto. “Entrevista com Beto Brant” [“Interview with Beto Brant”]. Video interview conducted by Lúcia Nagib and Samuel Paiva, 25 Jan. 2017. Accessed 28 Mar. 2017

4. Heise, Tatiana Signorelli. Remaking Brazil: Contested National Identities in Contemporary Brazilian Cinema. U of Wales P, 2012.

5. O invasor [The Trespasser]. Directed by Beto Brant, Drama Filmes, 2001.

6. Miklos, Paulo. “Orgia” [“Orgy”]. O invasor. Soundtrack. YB Music, 2002.

7. Nagib, Lúcia. Brazil on Screen: Cinema Novo, New Cinema and Utopia. I. B. Tauris, 2007.

8. Nagib, Lúcia, and Anne Jerslev, editors. Impure Cinema: Intermedial and Intercultural Approaches to Film. I. B. Tauris, 2014.

9. Passages: Travelling in and out of Film Through Brazilian Geography. Directed by Lúcia Nagib and Samuel Paiva, University of Reading, 2019.

10. Pavilhão 9. “Vai explodir” [“It Will Explode”]. O invasor. Soundtrack. YB Music, 2002.

11. Pethő, Ágnes. Cinema and Intermediality: The Passion for the In-Between. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011.

12. Sabotage. “Na Zona Sul” [“The South Zone”]. Rap é compromisso! [Rap Is Commitment!]. Cosa Nostra Fonográfica, 2000.

13. ---. “Um bom lugar” [“A Good Place”]. Rap é compromisso! [Rap Is Commitment!], Cosa Nostra Fonográfica, 2000.

14. ---. Rap é compromisso! [Rap Is Commitment!]. Cosa Nostra Fonográfica, 2000.

15. Silva, Márcia R. C. da. Pequeno panorama do cinema brasileiro contemporâneo [A Small Panorama of Contemporary Brazilian Cinema]. Anais do XXVII Congresso Brasileiro de Ciências da Comunicação, 2004.


Suggested Citation

Amaral, Marcela. “Realistic Intermediality and the Historiography of the Present.” Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, no. 19, 2020, pp. 67–80,


Marcela Amaral holds a PhD from Rio de Janeiro State University. As part of her research, which was focused on contemporary cinema and realism, film aesthetics, and mise en scène, she spent seven months as a Visiting Researcher at the University of Reading. As a film studies lecturer, she has taught diversified themes at the Fluminense Federal University in Brazil and other film schools in her country. She also has had a long career in the film and television industries working as an editor, an assistant director and more recently, a film/TV director.