Cast: Rodrigo Santoro (300, Focus), Angie Cepeda, Alinne Moraes
Directed By: José Henrique Fonseca
Run Time: 116 mins
Synopsis: Jose Hennque Fonseca’s Heieno depicts the rise and fall of famed Brazilian footballer Helena de Freitas (Rodrigo Santoro), whose aggressive style revolutionized the sport. The film’s chronology alternates between the forties, when Helena was at the top of his game, and the late fifties, when he spent his last days in a sanatorium. Reminiscent of Raging But!, Helena tells the story of a talented athlete whose arrogance and violent temper would destroy his life both on and off the pitch.
In the early forties, Rio was a glamorous oasis in a world ravaged by war. Fonseca conjures this epoch in high-contrast black and white, evoking the films of the classic Hollywood era. We follow the womanizing Helena from Rio’s nightclubs to his room at the Copacabana Palace; from practice on the beach to games starring for his beloved Botafogo. His dream is to lead Brazil to victory at the World Cup, but the faraway war in Europe prompts the cancellation of both the 1942 and 1946 tournaments. By 1950, Helena is in decline. His untreated syphilis, hotheaded attitude and unwillingness to be a team player eventually cause him to be sold to the Boca Juniors in Argentina, while his ongoing affair with a nightclub singer leads to his wife and son’s estrangement.
Fonseca expertly captures both the mood and beauty of his film’s setting, as well the excitement of football at such a seminal point in its history. (An exquisite attention to detail during the game sequences adds an authenticity that fans of both the sport and the cinema will appreciate.) Santoro gives the performance of his career, effortlessly evoking Helena’s glory days in a detectable combination of the cocksure and the charismatic. Most poignantly, we see him witness the historic ascension of Pele, who led Brazil to World Cup victory in 1958 and eclipsed Helena’s legend forever.
Toronto International Film Festival 2011
Miami International Film Festival 2012
Paris Brazilian Film Festival 2012