I have written three previous articles about the Brazilian soap opera Joia Rara and to be honest I was not expecting to be writing a final and fourth one. In my first article – In Praise of Joia Rara – I just wanted to say how mind-blowingly excellent and high quality this soap opera was, dealing as it did with the theme of Buddhism.
In my second article – Compassion, forgiveness and Joia Rara – I dealt specifically with the themes of compassion and forgiveness, and how these greatest of human qualities seem to be so lacking in our television programmes today which more often than not glamorise violence, sex and mindlessly cheesy ostentatious consumption as the path to happiness and fulfilment.
This article is also translated into Portuguese – Compaixão e Perdão em Jóia Rara. Maria was also moved to write her own article about the hero’s journey and human values in Joia Rara – A Jornada do Herói: Valores Humanos em Joia Rara.
And then in my final article – The Romantic Conception of Life in Joia Rara – I moved my focus away from the main characters to take a look at some of the additional story lines and romances and how these were interwoven into the richly fabric that is the world of Joia Rara. I wanted to talk about many other members of the cast, all who have delivered powerful and moving performances, meaning that the experience of Joia Rara is one of authentic wholeness, a wholeness that is rarely achieved in practice since the whole team – writers, production, acting – all have to have a deep and sensitive understanding of the essence of Joia Rara, in order to allow it to come into being as it so amazingly has.
Never in my life have I been so intensely involved in a programme, let alone a soap opera. I had been expecting an emotional ending, and having seen a few pictures on Facebook before the last episode last night, I was expecting the programme to end at the cabaret hall where many of the characters work and perform. Of course the cabaret did feature with all of the cast present (bar the “villains” of course) and the two writers Duca Rachid and Thelma Guedes also made a cameo appearance as members of the audience which was a sweet touch. But what an emotional final two days we have had. I will try and summarise the ending, in order that you understand just how insanely amazing this experience has been.
This last week saw the final disintegration of Manfred, a character who in any other soap opera would be a black and white villain, but who in Joia Rara plays a character who although we see committing atrocities, is treated with non-judgement by those he has wronged, principally Ernest, the man he grew up thinking was his father but who we learnt had sent him to work in a child-labour camp. Manfred, who is consumed by paranoia, hatred and revenge, kidnaps Pérola, the girl he believes is his daughter, but his plan to escape to France is thwarted, and he holds up in a desolate barn for weeks, not having a plan, and with Pérola growing dangerously ill with a fever.
Eventually their location is discovered, and both the police and Pérola’s family arrive to talk Manfred into seeing reason and allowing Pérola to be set free. But Manfred has other plans, and manages to escape with Pérola, who he leaves in another farm shed, only to have his car blocked by the pursuing police. With police guns aimed at him, he makes a sudden and rash move, with Ernest, who we know is not his father, dashing instinctively at Manfred to help him. But both Ernest and Manfred get shot, and in this scene we see the fear of Manfred, as he realises these will be his last moments, in the arms of Earnest.
Both Carmo Dalla Vecchia and José de Abreu totally excel in their roles, and in these moments of intense tragedy, as I have already written about, characters find solace and a level of humanity rarely seen in soap opera characters, allowing them to forgive and find peace within themselves.
Manfred passes away, leaving Earnest in a serious condition in hospital, where he is visited by Gertrude (Ana Lucia Torre), who reveals to Ernest that it was she who killed his wife, and not him as he had erroneously thought all these years, filling him with a guilt which had consumed him, eaten away at him, and a crime for which his children could not forgive him. In these moments, we experience the story of Joia Rara not as a simple linear progression, but as a Buddhist circle of life, with actions, both good and bad, coming back to us, the writers deftly crafting memories of our deeds from a misguided youth into the story.
Pérola of course is still missing, hiding, exhausted and scared in the barn as a storm breaks. Sonan (Caio Blat), who although is no longer a monk but who remains her guide and teacher, meditates as his wife Matilde sleeps, and he realises he has to go and seek Pérola.
In an age when supernatural programmes only seem to feature supernatural violence, horror and evil, this is a gentle spirituality which evokes a sense of connection with all of life, something deeper than just a material, fragmented and ultimately meaningless universe. In a scene which gave both Maria and I goosebumps, as he walks through a forest, the clouds break, and a ray of sunshine points towards the direction to where he will find Pérola.
It is worth remembering at this point that Pérola is played by nine-year old Mel Maia, who not has only had to play an enlightened Rinpoche, but has had to enact every emotion under the sun, both fear and heartbreak as well as compassion and love, a level of performance that many actors twice or three times her age would struggle to achieve.
With Pérola now safe and recovered from the fever, she and Ernest’s children visit him in hospital, where it is clear he has no resistance to life, he has no battles to fight, and he has found peace within himself. His daughter Hilda, and two sons Vikor and Franz both forgive him and declare their love for him, and then depart, leaving Earnest alone with Sonan and Pérola. Sonan guides Pérola to place her hands on Ernest’s forehead, and as he slips into sleep they offer one final mantra for him.
At no point does Joia Rara descend into schmaltz, as so many American soap operas are want to do. We see time passing in the lives of the characters, and one by one the many couples who came together start to marry. We are also taken to the gathering of the family, where the lawyers reads the final will and testament of Ernest, but in this potent scene, the words of the will are read by de Abreu, and as you can see above, Bruno Gagliasso continues deliver a contemplative intensity, supported ably of course by his wife, played by Bianca Bin.
What then came next was just totally unexpected, and was definitely the best ending I have ever witnessed to any drama series in my life. We move forward in time to when Pérola is a young adult, and she returns to Tibet to the monastery to take up her role as a monk.
A few days ago I sent a tweet to Thelma Guedes and José de Abreu in which I mentioned that it would be amazing to see Joia Rara set in modern day Brazil, to see what had happened to the descendants. In all honesty, I was talking about my hopes for a new series, and yet José wrote back to hint that maybe I would see something, who knows? As I was thinking about a new series, it never occurred to me that he may have been talking about the end of this series! Actually, Maria had also written an article some weeks ago observing that for her, Ernest’s life seemed to be following that of Buddha, and a few days ago Ernest himself made this very same observation.
After seeing the ceremony in Tibet, we were then taken to a room set in 2014, with Rinpoche Pérola (now played by the highly esteemed actress Gloria Menezes), being interviewed by a journalist, who asks her about her autobiography. Pérola relates the stories of many of the characters, what had happened, and where they had ended up. Pérola’s parents Franz and Amélia had never spent a day apart, and they died together at the same time, having lived an honest and fulfilling life together in peace and harmony.
But then we saw Pérola take to the stage at a congress where she gave the most outstanding and uplifting speech about peace and love. As she does so, we see scenes of war and terrorism, but then we see Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and The Dalai Lama.
Below is my own translation of Pérola’s final speech (without the help of Maria – who is away today but who will be writing her own final article about Joia Rara in the next few days). Duca Rachid and Thelma Guedes have been outstanding beyond words in this final scene, which really has to be watched, and so I can only say one final thing.
Congratulations to everyone who has taken part and contributed to Joia Rara. It has been phenomenal, and a production that each and every Brazilian can be proud of. There has been nothing like it every broadcast before, and in a Brazil which is so desperately lacking in leadership, what a sheer joy to have Joia Rara articulate such a powerful message of peace, love, forgiveness and enlightenment in these troubled times in which we live. Thank you to all of you.
Dear companions on this beautiful journey through life,
Today we are here to talk about peace. Many beings are suffering on this planet due to a lack of peace. Human beings are destroying the lives of others, attacking buildings around the world, all for money and power. But no one is in peace, they are suffering, causing pain.
We think that peace exists in the love of another. So who is this other who we should love? This person is ourselves. Love is the true rare jewel (joia rare) in life.
In this room, in this city, in this country, in this planet, in this galaxy, in this universe, everything is extremely delicate. The essence of these new times of great confusion and endless barriers which don’t stop, they don’t exist, they are an illusion.
We are all together. Many scientists, including Nobel prize winners, see life from the ground to the heaven as a beautiful poem. We need to live in peace.
Let us meditate on our negative thoughts which can hurt our neighbours. If we can smile it can reach to the other side of the world. Our love and respect for every creature will reach and benefit every creature in the universe.
It is only compassion and love for every being on this planet which will bring peace and happiness to all.
Peace is a decision of each and every one of us because each one of us has inside of us love.
The truth is that love is the rare jewel of life.