Some of you may have seen a previous couple of articles of mine in which I discuss the soap opera Além do Tempo (Beyond Time) currently showing on Brazilian television (see In Praise of Além do Tempo and Will Everything End with a Pizza or Fish and Chips?). The theme of Além do Tempo is karma, forgiveness and cause and effect, and writer Elizabeth Jhin has I believe achieved a world-first – a multi-generational drama in which the souls of characters re-incarnate into their new lives, carrying forward the karma from their past deeds, both good and bad.
For the last few weeks viewers have been watching the first half of the drama which was set in the year 1865. On Tuesday this drama reached its dramatic climax, which saw the tragic death of four leading characters, in a monumental tempest of love, happiness, ecstasy, remorse, hatred, jealousy and rage.
This turmoil builds across a number of scenes, starting with Countess Vitória Castellini, played by the hugely distinguished actress Irene Ravache, who after a life of plotting, deception and monumental mistreatment of her son, finally gives up the will to carry on with her life. In this scene, the camera pans around her vast mansion, as the wind snuffs out candles in each room, arriving at the countess herself who blows out the final one.
This scene has no dialogue, and can be watched on-line here.
In the meantime, Count Felipe has eloped with his beloved Lívia just minutes before being due to wed to the darkly manipulative Melissa. Melissa therefore plots with Pedro, who saw his hopes to marry Livia dashed, hatching a plan of revenge of which we do not hear the details.
In the final scene of this generation’s lives, Felipe and Livia walk to the side of the cliff where there is a beautiful waterfall. They have been followed by Melissa and Pedro, and while Pedro challenges Felipe to a sword-fight in which he plays dirty, Melissa rushes up to Lívia, pushing her over the cliff.
Felipe runs to the cliff, where he sees Lívia desperately hanging on, and so he scrambles down to grab hold of her. Pedro is in shock at Melissa’s unexpected act, and in a moment of anger, he drives the sword through her, unable to control himself at the loss of his loved one.
Pedro peers over the cliff top, and Felipe implores him to help, and rescue them both. But still lost in his raging emotions, he strikes the sword again into the shoulder of Felipe, causing him to lose his grip, and plunging the two into the water rapids below.
The scene can be watched here, and while in Portuguese, can be easily followed now that you know what is happening.
As Lívia clings to the unconscious Felipe, she calls to him to pray with her. She remembers his words where he tells her he does not believe that God would allow suffering, and she tells him silently how much she feels his suffering and how she had wished things were different.
With her final words fading away, and to the hugely atmospheric soundtrack “Together” by the group The XX, we start to weave in and out of the transition of one lifetime to the next, in which we see Livia boarding the metro, and Felipe walking towards the same door, only to be mysteriously hindered, and unable to get on. You can watch this whole scene here.
Although unable to board, their eyes meet through the window of the door, and in this moment we see two souls immediately recognise each other, in some mysterious way sensing a connection which their current incarnations can not possibly understand.
It is a brilliant scene, incredibly well produced, and one which marked the end of that particular episode. We did see on the same platform the angel Ariel, who was the sole subject of my article In Praise of Além do Tempo, an angel still in training, and who could not overcome his desire to interfere in human affairs to help people, and who now is so disenchanted with life he has sunk to disrupting lives rather than healing and helping.
And so it was that last night we viewers were given our first full look at the lives of these souls, where they are living, with who, and their stations in life. And as we did so, Brazil’s social networks exploded, with viewers around the country rushing to Twitter to tell of their own emotions, reactions and to share in their often strange sensations of directly witnessing, perhaps for the first time in television or film, the effects of the causes of actions of previous lives.
With such high quality acting, writing and production, and such an explosive middle section which is a game-changer in terms of narrative arcs, Além do Tempo smashed all previous viewing figures, and last night Brazilians were still on Twitter hours after the programme ended, with the hash tag #AlemDoTempo trending in the top position.
Alinne Moraes who plays Lívia took to Twitter to thank everyone for their support:
Maria also took to Twitter, resulting in her tweet going a little viral with 29 retweets and 52 favourites:
And in one of my tweets, I reflected on the fact that following this episode, a lot of Brazilians must now be asking themselves what they did in a previous life:
Brazil is in a period of crisis right now, with the most senior politicians and business leaders being exposed for corruption in a way in which is utterly unprecedented in this country’s history. So it is amazing to feel united not around politics, but a programme which is teaching us about ethics, values, and the unforeseen repercussions of our actions, whether we believe in karma and reincarnation or not.
Again, I must congratulate everyone who is a part of Além do Tempo for their dedication and work in producing what has to be one of the greatest dramas seen on television. While Downton Abbey maybe receiving plaudits around the world with a global audience, Além do Tempo for me is head and shoulders above. It is taking drama into a new level, and it is doing so in the six pm time slot and so having no need to resort to expletives, sexually explicit scenes or unnecessary violence.
One creative decision which Jhin made was to keep the same actors playing their new lives, and also to keep their names. This has the dramatic effect of helping viewers immediately connect with which character was who in their previous lives, and it is trick which I feel absolutely works, and if anything it really helps viewers to become ever more captivated, intrigued and utterly immersed in the drama, a drama which promised to be even more scintillating than part one.
Even in episode one of the new lives, characters have started to make fleeting connections with each other, such as Felipe attending the book signing of Bernado, who is now a writer, and Raul who continues to be his friend and who is now a photographer.
Felipe as the count planted a vineyard in the fictional region of Campo Belo, and many of the characters are making their way back there, where the new Felipe is the owner of a very modest vineyard, married to Melissa, who is still the daughter of the scheming Dorotéia, and who has given up a lucrative modelling career to be with him and his modest ambitions.
What can I say? I am totally hooked, the drama is riveting, the acting compelling, and I do believe there is nothing else quite like Além do Tempo on our television screens. This drama follows last year’s very amazing Buddhist-themed soap opera Joia Rara, about which I wrote many articles, and again I just wanted to share my praise for this devastatingly brilliant story.