Walter Salles 1998 masterpiece Central Station is believed to have marked the new era of Brazilian film production known as the Renaissance of the Brazilian cinema (Ortolano and Porte 22). Starring Fernanda Montenegro as a bitter and disappointed letter-writer, the movie offers a thought-provoking insight both into rather unenviable life of lower-class Brazilians and into an allegoric journey of a self-centered sinner to Jesus. Jesus, being both the name of Josues father and the name of God, is Dora and the little boys destination and what they both need while the way to him transforms mainly Dora. Doras effort and disregard of self on the way to find Josues father and her personal Jesus changes the main heroine completely she transitions from a selfish and angry old spinster to a generous and loving mother.
The viewer first meets Dora at a busy and chaotic station where she provides services of writing letters for illiterate people. Later when she is shown having fun reading those letters aloud to her friend back at home and destroying them, Dora is perceived as a completely disillusioned and even wicked individual whose main purpose is to cheat people for personal benefit. Moreover, mocking at peoples feelings and sentiments Dora displays utter absence of respect to her clients. Dora considers herself entitled to judge other people and their decisions and even change their lives on a whim. According to Stephanie Dennison and Lisa Shaw, Dora is heartless and selfish only because of her circumstances since schoolteachers in Brazil are notoriously badly paid and she also has no family to support her when she gets too old to work. (Dennison and Shaw 211-212). Another excuse the authors of the book Popular Cinema in Brazil find for Dora is her naivety. Working as a schoolteacher all her life Dora has adopted her basic and convenient assumptions about the nature of things (Dennison and Shaw 212) that prevent her to see life as it is. Apparently her limited outlook impedes her to grasp the real intentions of suspicious people taking children from the street for foreign adoption (Salles) despite the fact that the boy is already way too old to be adopted. Doras self-centeredness allows her to see only what is convenient for her to see: she is happy to get the boy out of her view and get a huge sum of money enabling her to buy a brand-new TV set, an indispensable staple in the life of a miserable lonely woman. Dennison and Shaw also state that Dora is quick to turn a blind eye to the evils of the society (Dennison and Shaw 212). This is another metaphor for her inexperience in dealing with real life problems. Having worked as a teacher all her life, Dora must have assumed an authority over other peoples lives that she, in fact, is not supposed to take upon herself. Dora is apparently in the habit of being a figure of power, telling the people what they should do. This is probably what she likes about her new job of a letter-writer: she sometimes writes some lines from herself and hardly ever sends the letters that lie in her drawer or purgatory as her only friend says. She evidently enjoys having that power over peoples lives as if she were some kind of God. However, during the journey she takes with Josue in order to find his father, Dora undergoes a gradual transformation, provoked by an adventure itself and by the increasingly strong bond she forms with Josue (Dennison and Shaw 212). The road forces her to reconsider her long-held convenient assumptions (Dennison and Shaw 212) and change attitude to life entirely. Former Dora, living in the noisy proximity of the railroad, was most happy when she could mock at someone or buy an expensive gadget for her sad apartment. New transformed Dora is delighted to see Josue smile when the truck driver who gives them a ride lets him sit at the wheel. Dora even develops tender feelings for the driver but, apparently having little to none experience of romantic involvement with a man, she erroneously takes his sincere intentions to help out two helpless travelers in need for a demonstration of more serious feelings towards her. Evidently, at this moment Dora still perceives everything as being all about herself though she is no longer the unfeeling and unthoughtful villain she used to be while working as a letter writer at the station.
During Dora and Josues journey they constantly encounter different reminders about God. They search for Jesus, Josues father, and they meet Jesus, the God, in various forms. It is not even about religion in the proper sense, though the movie can be interpreted in that way as well. Finding Jesus for Dora means the accomplishment of her honorable mission that consists mainly in transforming herself from being a selfish and callous fraudster to a thoughtful and caring person. The first significant encounter with God happens when the travelers meet a cheerful and kind-hearted truck-driver who is deeply religious and genuinely virtuous. He saves Dora from the theft charge by telling the shop owner that she is a friend of hers. Dora steals food from the shop because she has no money to buy something to eat for her and Josue. However, at this point Dora already feels responsible not only for the boys life and safety but for his moral education as well. That is why she takes the food stolen by the boy back to the shop pretending that she is going to return it. She wants the boy to grow a better person than herself and that means she is partly over with her initial selfishness. The drastic change happens in Dora during another episode, also having a religious connotation. After she rashly and indiscreetly tells Josue some cruel things and he flees from her into a crowd of pilgrims in Bom Jesus da Norte, Dora rushes after him through a stifling and dense crowd of singing and meditating people who take absolutely no notice of anything happening around them. Dora gets desperate and exhausted and finally she faints to wake a completely new person. As soon as Dora comes to herself she sees that she is lying in Josues lap like a new-born baby. New-born Dora now feels a strong bond with Josue and is ready to continue looking for his Dad. After several attempts to locate him, Dora understands that she has enough love in her heart to become Josues mother and she willingly offers him that. This would have been completely impossible with the old version of Dora who could think about nothing and nobody but herself. Doras gesture is eagerly accepted but in the end proves to be not necessary as Josue chances to meet his two half-brothers who make up his new family. The two brothers have religious names too Moises and Isaeas and they work as carpenters like their father and like biblical Jesus. Leaving Josue with them Dora takes the train that reminds the viewer about the trains that pass by the window in her apartment and starts a new journey. She has new mission now: she needs to find another meaning and purpose of her life. Having love and compassion in her heart that she learnt with the help of Jesus son, this will not be difficult.
To conclude, Doras metamorphosis from a an egotistical and mercenary individual would not have been possible without the journey she takes with the young boy who has just lost his mother and has only one aspiration to find his father, whom he has never met before. Starting the journey with the intention to guide the boy only half the way and get him out of her view, she finally grows so fond of him that she makes him an offer to stay with her. Being some kind of mother to the boy develops the best in Doras personality: she proves to be capable of love, sympathy and patience. Looking as Dora leaves on a train, the audience is certain that she will never come back to the life she used to live. Being a better person now, Dora is sure to bring along her love and care wherever she goes.
Central do Brazil. Dir. Walter Salles. Perf. Fernanda Montenegro, Vinicius de Oliveira. 1998. Film.
Dennison, Stephanie, and Lisa Shaw. Popular Cinema in Brazil, 1930-2001. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2004. Print.
Ortolano, Glauco, and Julia A. Porte. "Brazilian Cinema: Film in the land of Black Orpheus."World Literature Today 10-12 (2003): 19-23. Web. 15 July 2016.
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