In the film the violent and brutal life of living in the City of God is brought to the big screen. You see how small children are brought up surrounded by violence because that is the only life they really know. There is theft, murder, rape, and a higher archy that could rival some of the most brutal civilizations. Most of the characters in the film die from the constant violence. Rocket is the only one that truly rises to a point of success.
Rocket’s success in life is an interesting point of the film. Throughout his life you see that he is constantly surrounded by violence, illiteracy, and the inability to speak out against his “friends”. Hart points out that Rocket uses his camera instead of a gun and culture instead of violence to escape from the violent life of the subaltern class that he grew up as.
Hart also discusses the religious symbolism in the film. The title in its self is ironic because the true City of God would be a community of peace, love, and tranquility but instead it is full of hate, murder, and terror. The scene with Lil Z and the shaman is interesting as well. Hart states that is a reverse baptism and is ironic because Lil Z is being baptized into a life of evil and not grace. The amulet that the shaman gives Lil Z is supposed to protect him from his enemies as long as he does not fornicate while wearing it. Hart points out that even though we do not see the amulet on him while he is raping Knockout Ned’s girlfriend it is assumed that he is wearing it because from that point on in the film Lil Z is no longer successful and is constantly challenged by Knockout Ned and Carrot.
The favelas and ghettos in the film are the main settings and give us the back drop for the violence in this society. Ney dos Santos Oliveira’s article Favelas and Ghettos: Race and Class in Rio de Janeiro and New York City discusses these communities. He states that these favelas and ghettos house up to 5 million people in Brazil especially around Rio de Janeiro. The film shows the living conditions as a sort of cause for the violence. The kids at the beginning of the film decided that they need money and are bored so the hold up a gas truck. Guns and theft are a normal part of life for these kids. They decided to take it to a new level and hold up the local motel that is used as a sort of whorehouse and rob those people as well. The plan takes a horrible turn when the young Lil Z decides to quench his thirst for blood and kills everyone in the motel. This is the start of his bloody campaign. From this point on he holds no remorse and will kill anyone that crosses him. The only person he ever cared for was his best friend Benny.
The violence in the film and in the actual community itself is cyclical. The film starts out with young children learning from the older kids how to steal. Then those kids grow up and become the violent mentors to the younger kids called the “runts”. Eventually the runts will overtake Lil Z and they will become the “power” in The City of God.