The Given Word (1962) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A simple yet devout Christian makes a vow to Saint Barbara after she saves his donkey, but everyone he meets seems determined to misunderstand his intentions. Will he be able to keep his promise in the end?

  • Zé-do-Burro has only one worldly possession, his donkey, that he named Nicolas and considers to have a sole like himself, a law abiding Christian just a trifle naive. During a tempest, Nicolas is seriously wounded, and Zé-do-Burro, out of despair, makes a promise: to carry a cross as large as Christ's, to the altar of Saint Barbara - the nearest being in the city of Bahia. He vows to do so in a Candomblé session, dedicated to the goddess Yansan - that in the popular belief corresponds to that Christian saint. Nicolas fully recovers from his illness, and Zé-do-Burro produces a large cross with his own hands and tools, and then carries it on foot to Bahia, accompanied by his wife, Rosa. He has to stay by the church's closed door, and the only person who comes to meet them is Bonitão, the local pimp, who offers to take Rosa to a pension while Zé-do-Burro keeps his promise of staying by the cross. Next morning, the priest is surprised but satisfied with the faith shown by Zé-do-Burro - until the detail that the promise had been done in a Candomblé session comes up in conversation. Then, Olavo the priest berates Zé-do-Burro for his impiety, and forbade him entrance to the church. The local zealots back him up. A crowd is gathering for the procession and feast in honor of Saint Barbara, including Rosa, who is soon attacked by Marly, the local whore, out of jealousy of her having stayed the night in the company of the handsome gigolo. The women's fight causes a disturbance of the peace. The black people perform a Capoeira fight in her honor, in front of the church. A scandals' reporter adds to the confusion with his insinuation that Zé-do-Burro may be a communist agitator, or a blessed man. The police is called by the zealots, because Zé-do-Burro tried to force the door to the church using the cross as a battering-ram. The police officers order Zé-do-Burro to go away from the church, but he faces up to them. There's a brawl, a shot is heard, the people escape this way and that, and Zé-do-Burro lies dead by his cross. It's then that the black people take Zé-do-Burro's body, put it on the cross, and carry him inside the church to the altar of his favorite saint - unopposed.

  • Zé is a very poor man from the Brazilian countryside. His most prized possession is his donkey. When his donkey falls terminally ill, Zé makes a promise to Saint Bárbara: If his donkey recovers, he will carry a cross - like Jesus - all the way from his city to Saint Bárbara's church in the state capital. Upon the recover of his donkey, Zé leaves on his journey. He makes it to the church, but the priest refuses to accept the cross once he came to know the context of Zé's promise.


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