Playing with Storytelling in “Jogo de Cena”

Rex Nielson presented the Brazilian film Jogo de Cena at an International Cinema lecture. He discussed the importance of storytelling to an individual’s identity.

rio PROVO, Utah (October 20, 2015)— Storytelling is in human nature; stories capture our attention, take us to faraway lands, and play at our emotions. Why is it, though, that stories can have such a strong affect on us? The Brazilian film Playing explores the human need for stories and the effects that stories hold on individuals.

Playing is the English title of Jogo de Cena; however, Rex Nielson, an associate research professor of Portuguese, noted that this is a strange translation and that more literally, Jogo de Cena translates to “game of scenes.” The entire film takes place inside a theatre and tells the stories of individual women.

Director Eduardo Coutinho placed an ad in the classifieds asking for women to come tell him stories in Rio de Janeiro. He then hired actresses to learn the stories that were told to him word for word. The scenes presented in the film cut back and forth between the actresses and the actual women telling the stories, so the audience is left to decide which woman is which and whether or not the stories are real and personal. This is a difficult task in many cases.

“In the film Jogo de Cena, some of the stories that the women tell are very emotional stories, but they don’t always react in emotional ways, and the person who’s experiencing the emotion isn’t always the one who actually lived through the experience,” said Nielson.

Coutinho called his cinematic technique “conversational cinema.” For his films, he enters into interviews completely unscripted and simply begins to have a conversation. Coutinho explores the dimensions of what makes a person human and complex, and some very interesting stories come out of his conversations. In Jogo de Cena, the added dimension of a second storyteller creates a complicated dynamic. This, Nielson said, leads to questions of storytelling and identity.

“What does it mean to own a story and to have a story define you as a person?” asked Nielson. “What matters most? Is it the words of the story or having actually lived through the experience?”

Nielson believes that the emotions experienced by the storyteller are just as valid as the emotions of the person who truly experienced the event. He gave the example of general authorities quoting scripture during General Conference. Someone may quote scripture without directly stating that it is quoted scripture. That scripture becomes a part of the speaker as though he or she is saying it for the very first time.

“I find myself persuaded by the film that the stories we tell and the words that we tell can become internalized,” said Nielson. “We can internalize those words so deeply that they become a part of who we are.”

—Kayla Goodson (B.A. Communications and French studies ’17)

Kayla covers the Department of Spanish and Portuguese for the College of Humanities. She is a junior pursuing a dual degree in French studies and Journalism with a minor in international strategy and diplomacy.

Photo courtesy of Ed Johnson.