Saturday, September 28, 2013

A ROTTEN TOMATO: Neighbouring Sounds

Brazil has produced many great films over the years and so I eagerly awaited their latest submission for Oscar's Foreign Language category - "Neighbouring Sounds". It's a highly acclaimed film, with many praising it as one of the strongest directing debuts in recent years. Now that I've seen it, I'm wondering what I'm missing.
In contrast to the more vivacious atmosphere of the favelas, this film is set in the more mundane life of a middle-class apartment building in the city. It's no different from similar apartment settings (especially in Latin America/Caribbean) and is therefore instantly recognizable. As such, one of the film's strong points is that it captures the tone and atmosphere perfectly. It's a laid-back lifestyle that can seem mundane, but can be surprisingly satisfying for many people. The problem is, this lifestyle doesn't naturally translate so easily to a narrative film.
As the plot slowly trudges along, we are introduced to various characters. They're all connected in a network of relationships, as you can expect from such a community. In a way, this gives the sense of a Alejandro González Iñárritu, with multiple storylines coming together. Unfortunately, this film lacks the storytelling skill of Iñárritu's films. It always seems like the plot was setting up for something big to happen, but it never gets there. There's a lack of drama and it therefore makes for periods of tedious watching. The main plot point of the film is the introduction of a team of security guards to protect the community, but it really doesn't add much dramatic weight.
In the end, I give Kleber Mendonça Filho points for his naturalistic directing style and the film's authenticity. However, I can't ignore the fact that I was very disappointed with how the story played out. Filho obviously has a knack for directing, but I think he needs to work on his screenwriting.

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