Apart from some of Sergio Bianchi’s movies and some other recently productions (like the 2009 “É proibido fumar” by Anna Muylaert, for instance), it’s very uncommon to see the Brazilian middle class represented in the national cinema from a both artistic and intelligent point of view.
Since the expansion of the national productions has spread and gained bigger space and visibility outside and abroad, what usually calls the audience attention (and even of the critics) is the register of dramas which orbits around poverty, criminality and the violence and conflicts in the suburbs, all of them with different degrees of nuisance in relations to such backgrounds which are part of the enormous social difference between classes in the middle of the Brazilian chaos, during the so acclaimed economical growing time. When the audience, who in general belongs to the middle class, does not go to the movies to “shock” themselves with the lower classes’ reality – in productions usually made by someone who is from an upper class – they prefer to, and the reason so I can not understand, watch comedies with a sexual, light and unpretentious tone, of which the majority is produced by some of the biggest national audio-visual corporations like Globo Filmes.
That’s why my curiosity about Kleber Mendonça Filho ‘s “Neighbouring Sounds”, just kept growing since the beginning of 2012 when the movie won the FIPRESCI from the international critics in the Rotterdam Festival. Almost a year later the movie premiered in São Paulo, and it’s was instantly overrated by those who wrote about it and by the alternative viewers as well – so I could finally find out what the movie was about.
And only now, much more as a film lover than a occasionally movie’s commentator, can I make a reasonable balance between what I was expecting from the movie and the post-reflections in relation to Kebler’s first feature film within what has been made in cinema in Brazil lately: if first my biggest concerns was to understand the critic phenomenon of “Neighbouring Sounds” ( which has been pointed out by most Brazilian specialist as one of the most important marks of the national cinema and by the Internation Federation of Movie Critics as one of the best movies of 2012) now is just a matter of trying to understand why can’t movies with such a good technical and artistic quality be produced with the same intelligent point of view which we miss so much, since most productions are becoming so repetitive.
In the middle of this background, which lacks originality, of not so plausible films that seek for a big box office, “Neighbouring Sounds” was shot under an extremely attentive point of view in relation to what is best produced in the cinematographic language today and it was made as to provoke something, since the self image of the so call Brazilian middle class (using to do so a micro fictionary set: a residential street in Recife, which according to Kleber could be from any other city in South America, though), to the pre-conception that in order to be successful in Brazil, it’s extremely necessary to shot poverty, the favelas, the violence and so on. But that’s not true.
The plot is quite simple and objective: habits of a middle class street in Recife have their routines transformed after the arriving of a security staff who offers themselves to prevent the place from possible dangers. From that, Kleber Mendonça Filho structures in the plot an anxiety and anguish atmosphere in ever detail of the story ( as Michale Haneke would so well do): the scripts creates highly contradictory characters in situations where daily life is undressed as to show hypocrisy and futility, the photography by Pedro Sotero, took into account the honesty of natural light and opted for frameworks filled with straight crossed lines, expanding walls, corridors and fences where the characters live of hide themselves from the outside world, and the music by DJ Dolores, electronic and urban, comments and sets the mood to everything tha the eyes carefully see.
I watched an interview with Kleber during the Sydney Cinema Festival in which he claimed to have opted to film the middle class because that’s where he comes from, and that he understands that, in Brazilian cinema today, there is a tendency in which movie makers prefer to talk about the “other”, about social situations that they don’t belong to, something that he so wants to run away from, that he opted to make a narrative close to the thriller ones. Rahter there was a necessity to portray this alterity view or not, there was – and maybe there are, since that diversity allows that different views search for a understatement in art – in Neighbouring Sounds’s case, the approach of undressing a world which is so well known by the screen writer gives the movie authenticity and reliability: so it’s that the strongest character of the movie, a young housewife and mother of two children who seems to live only for the house, it’s a recreation of a similar character in the 2005 short movie “Eletrodoméstica” also written by Kleber, the character is so the best allegory to such authenticity. It’s hard to find in the national cinema, a character who is so well constructed mainly by images (the lines are few, and even so they don’t reveal much – the actions are responsible for telling the story).
There is an urgency in the contemporary Brazilian cinema, and it’s less abut the means of distribution (that need to be done in a fairer way to independent and small productions) than the sponsorship to more original views, braves one like Kleber’s, who wants to think not only about the national society, in it’s varied shapes and relationships, but also the ways in which people think cinema must be produced, to go beyond big box offices that we’ve got so used to without further thinking. And that apparently begins to become a reality, I hope that with the gradual success, to the improvement of the artistic development of Brazilian cinema with “Neighbouring Sounds”.
Watch the trailer here:
written by Diego Carrera