Every once in a while, a young film maker turns up with that special film to reassure us all that cinema is indeed in rude health. Like Kleber Mendonça Filho, who's just made a remarkable directorial début with his thought-provoking drama, "O Som ao Redor" [Eng. Title: Neighbouring Sounds].
Filho's film becomes all the more special when you get to watch its spectacular evolution from an earlier short, titled Eletrodoméstica (included among the DVD extras). A lot of fresh ideas have been inserted into the feature-length film, not just in expanding on a theme, which he does very well, but also in terms of extrapolating it with additional new concepts which makes the film surprisingly deep. It is however, something for the viewer to explore and interpret on their own.
Set in a middle class suburb of Recife, the film is presented as a tableau of observations, combining together to form an elaborate landscape of a present day Brazilian society that's also haunted by aspects of its recent past. As a foreign viewer, you're also struck by the level of their preoccupation with security; menacing window grills en-cage pretty much every dwelling and its occupants, layers of locked doors fortify precious souls living inside, as private sentinels keep watch over their street - it's an unnatural atmosphere of claustrophobia enforced on a neighbourhood in what is essentially a city open to the skies, and light. These are the aspiring middle classes, Filho tells us, full of grace, but insecure from the outside, and inside.
There's an accompanying story too for each of the characters observed - the grandson of a property magnate who wants to quit his family occupation and free himself from carrying the cross for his forefathers, a mother of two, frustrated and stressed out by her neighbour's dog, a recently contracted security guard who's in the neighbourhood for a different purpose altogether, and not least the ageing property magnate himself who's also owner of a sugar mill. Each have their side of the story aired, which in many ways resemble a sincere confession.
The film gives the feel of watching a documentary, it was also director Filho's intention as he explains in his commentary. But this is also riveting cinema of the highest order - engaging, and at times quite thrilling. From the magnificent cinematography to the thoughtful editing, the profound sound design to the cool soundtrack, this film is produced to exacting detail, but it wouldn't have been made possible without Filho's impeccable direction and realistic performances from the main cast. Needless to say, this gem of a film is Highly Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Irma Brown, Gustavo Jahn, Maeve Jinkings, and Clebia Sousa