Traditions that are not quite as sweet as the sugar processe
A. Gyurisin | Wet, Wild, Wonderful Virginia | 08/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Throughout the world there are a million stories happening every second. Try to wrap your mind around that for a moment. As I sit here and type, or as you sit there and read this review, there are people experiencing their lives through sadness, adventure, humor, or experimentation. There are those who are finally breaking free from the monotony of life by exploring outside of the box to see where an unfocused, un-traveled path may lead them. Alas, not all of these stories can make it to the screen, not all of the stories can be told, and not all of these stories deserve to - but thankfully acclaimed director Walter Salles picked up his camera, brought together a group of minimalist characters, and told one story that wasn't filled with CGI, wasn't headlined with big name box-office sensations, and wasn't filled with so many clichés that it would seem obvious Hollywood was financing the project. Salles instead told a simple story about a family struggling with tradition, about a son ready to experience life, and about nobodies awakening themselves to a fresh bold day. This is "Abril Despedacado" or "Behind the Sun", and for the normal film watcher this is probably a boring foreign film that dragged on for too long because of the intelligence of our nation, but for me, this film was closely near to cinematic perfection.
"Abril Despedacado" is one of those films that you cannot judge directly after watching. It is one of those films that needs to be developed within your mind first, chewed after, re-watched, then tackled. It is not a simple film, yet Salles makes it so. Confused? I was too after watching this film, not because of the storyline, but because of my insecurity of emotion felt towards this title. Typically, I can say - "Nope", or "Yep, loved it", but with this one it took me two viewings to fully find myself saying, "This was nearly a masterpiece". This isn't your typical Hollywood film, but neither was his original first "Central Station", this is a film with minimal players, coupled with a simple plot, yet emotion raining down from the sky like fire. It is about a family that is so caught up in tradition, that living just isn't available. Year after year, or in this iteration, months after months, two families struggling for control over land (the bickering and death has gone on for so long that the land seems so unimportant in the grand scheme) kill one another in hopes that this final blow will be the last. The crazy thing about tradition, it keeps going - and this one is not different - until now. Two brothers, workhorses, who question this tradition after one is faced with the undutiful task of killing, look outside their small box of a life to see what else is out there to life for. It is there they find something that has been missing - imagination, love, and most importantly - a life.
My description above seems, and feels to me like ultimate cheese spread on a film. Why would I like this? I think the first thing that pulled me towards this sleeper foreign film was the fact that I never quite new what was going to happen next. The story was solid, when I say that I mean it was lacking the typical holes that cliché Hollywood standards. This story was so simple (yet not), that Salles was able to focus on our characters, enriching us with images of the land, the culture, and the possibilities. The fact that this is a foreign film takes us away from the hardships, makes it almost fantastical, yet keeps us grandly rooted in reality. I felt sympathy for all the characters because there was no defined evil, I wanted them to explore, go on adventures, and see opportunities that this tradition was holding them back from. I loved the character of Pacu, or "The Kid", as he read the book given to him from a circus performer. The fact that he couldn't read didn't stop him from using his imagination, bringing stories to life, and enjoying a small cusp of life that we typically take for granted. What could have been dull or trite transformed by Salles vision into pure gold. This was more than just a film, but instead a cry to anyone that may feel the pressures of work getting them down, and looking for any opportunity to escape. "Abril Despedacado" is a universal story, rooted within an obscure culture. Why did this take me two viewings to see it?
I must say everything fell perfectly into place with "Abril Despedacado", nothing was missing, nothing was forgotten, and nothing was misplaced. In a year of overplayed, recycled films, this was a breath of fresh air. Our characters were strong, yet independent. I loved that Tonho wanted to leave, find a new hope, yet couldn't forget about his family, especially his younger brother. I loved the sense of family and trust that happened within a small sect of people that really had nothing in common except the word "family" and the roof over their heads. While the ending was sad, I saw it as the perfect wake up call for these two bickering families. The scenery was genuine. The music was somber. Salles, in my eyes, couldn't have perfected "Abril Despedacado" any better. I have seen some utter garbage this year, and while my eye for film is constantly changing with age, I think "Abril Despedacado" is one that families could enjoy, as well as anyone who found the courage to put this in their DVD player. I am eager to see more of what Walter Salles has to offer, really explore his style, and suggest him thoroughly to friends and family.
Overall, I am very impressed with this film. It is one that could be watched again and again, and more could be discovered. It is the perfect film to enjoy on a rainy day, with a warm cup of coffee, and enjoy the beauty that Salles creates with such a poignant family drama that obviously has a date on it, but can be considered universal. Time has shown on this film, AND proven that "Abril Despedacado" is one that can sustain the test of time. Bravo Walter Salles, Bravo!
Grade: **** out of *****"
Behind the curve
Jean E. Pouliot | Newburyport, MA United States | 03/02/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Behind the Sun" is a kind of fable, I guess, about a small family of Brazilian sugar cane farmers. They are struggling to make it in competition with a larger family up the road. The rivalry between the families grows into a blood feud. One day, the circus comes to town in the shape of a beautiful girl and her stepfather. The small family's oldest son falls in love with the girl and runs off with her on a last gasp of fun before he meets his fate as the feud's next target.
The cinematography is great, with grand expressive shots of bloody shirts hanging on clotheslines and a memorable scene of a girl being twirled on a rope. There just isn't much story though, and what there is gets awfully confusing. "Behind the Sun" is a story about family rivalry, honor and love, but it made precious little sense to me. There may be layers and layers of symbolic action here, but I couldn't care enough to look for them. A real miss."