A Brief Analysis of City of God’s Opening Sequence

The tone set at the beginning of City of God clashes with two different emotions (as far as I know) at first. These two emotions are based off urgency as it stems from the drumming, stomping energy of the party, and when the chicken is trying to escape. But since we see that the chicken is trapped and ready to be cooked, the urgency shifts from wanting to be a part of the party’s welcoming liveliness and spontaneity to our hope for the chicken’s escape, especially during the ensuing chase.

The emotion behind it all was brewed through a series of quick-cuts and jump-cuts, with pinches of rising unease through close-ups of dead chicken and gleeful people and sharpened knives slicing through feathers and flesh, while the rolling drums in the background were fast and frantic. The shakiness in the camerawork helped accentuate the urgency as well, as though the cameramen were excited themselves throughout filming. With this, they also captured the grit of the location, what with all of the grime and dust, feeling somewhat more personal and even dangerous, rather than if this entire sequence were shot on a tripod and through wider angles.

This would be true if the following chase scene possessed the aforementioned camerawork, even if it attempted to be more kinetic with quick-pans and crash-zooms and tracking shots using stabilizers to minimize the shakiness. It could help the audience map out the entire location, like in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, but the scene prioritizes the emotion above the geography, and it was accomplished well, feeling larger than life, no matter how up close and personal it seems to be.

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3 thoughts on “A Brief Analysis of City of God’s Opening Sequence”

  1. I agree with your idea that there are clashing emotions being displayed in this opening sequence. Frankly, it’s all in the editing style that it’s conveyed. An interesting detail that could add to that idea is how the editing style drastically changes when we see the two boys walking down the streets, cut in a parallel manner compared to the chicken chase. It is like day and night!

    I never really thought about the geography aspect you talked about, so it was interesting to bring up. What’s even more interesting is that due to the parallel cut, I think we still could tell that the thugs chasing the chicken and the two boys would eventually bump into each other, even if we did not really have any sense of actual, precise location.

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  2. The chicken to me, in the first part of the film, is somewhat reflective of how some people feel in that environment. The constant feeling of urgency, but I also think that the chicken symbolises and in a way foreshadows the experience of the protagonist. We as the audience even see it happen when the main character is stuck in the crossfire, we again start feeling that urgency that we did at the start.

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  3. A very interesting and well detailed read. While watching the film i myself as a viewer got attached to the chicken, hoping it’ll escape or at least survive the cookout especially when the other chickens are either being cooked or about to be killed while the chicken who escaped witnessed it all.

    The details surrounding the location from old and broken buildings to dust and blood and a group of people living in poverty kept the element of realism on point, for the camera angles and the shots being used it kept you closer to the smallest details which build up more emotions for the viewers.

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