Cinema: Crux at a Carnival

The Given Word, the major achievement to date of Brazil's germinal cinema novo, sets forth the tragedy of a simple, devout man who batters out his life against an implacable apparatus of religious and secular authority.

In poverty-stricken Northeastern Brazil, a peasant named Ze, honoring the saint who spared the life of his injured donkey, carries a cross "as heavy as Christ's" 30 miles to the Church of Santa Barbara in Bahia. In the city, Ze's wife Rosa is seduced by a sneering pimp. Next morning a vindictive priest refuses to let Ze enter...