Three Reasons to Watch: Neighbouring Sounds
Every Monday, Curzon or a guest editor recommends a key film from the Curzon Home Cinema collection. This week, it's Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s tense portrait of life in a tightly-knit community.
Some films employ cities give us a sense of the mood and moral compass of a world before we’re introduced to the main players. Take a look at any of the great urban Film Noirs of the 1940s and ‘50s and you can see this. Or the crop of New York-set films that emerged in the 1970s, from Serpico (1973) and The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974) to Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Taxi Driver (1976). Then there are the films in which the city is moulded before our eyes by the characters we follow. Neighbouring Sounds fits this template.
Kleber Mendonça Filho’s 2012 feature debut is a portrait of one small neighbourhood. It’s not a gated community, but in this collective of apartments there is a sense that the characters are closed off from the rest of Recife, the city in which the action unfolds. They are all linked – by family, friendship or business – to Francisco, the ageing patriarch whose wealth and benevolence has created this world. But when two men offer their services as security guards, the calm atmosphere that previously existed in the neighbourhood gradually becomes more anxious. And the men’s motives may not be as simple or honest as they claim.
Part of Neighbouring Sounds’ attraction lies in the way Filho presents his world. Embracing the almost sci-fi feel that J.G. Ballard adopted in his later novels, such as ‘Super-Cannes’, ‘Millennium People’ and ‘Kingdom Come’, this world is both recognisable and strange. It’s not quite the nightmare of the earlier Mexican thriller La Zona (2007), which had the residents of a heavily-surveilled gated community hunting down disadvantaged teens who have broken in. But it does share with that film a stark contrast between the haves and have nots. Moreover, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that Filho is questioning the morality of extreme capitalism and unbridled greed. This world, seemingly created through the altruism of one man was actually paid for by the blood of another.
The rapid expansion of Brazil’s real estate business is central to Filho’s second film, Aquarius (2016). In that drama, Sonia Braga’s retired widow refuses to leave the apartment that she raised her family in and goes to war with the company trying to force her out. Community also lies at the heart of Bacurau (2019), which Filho co-directed with Juliano Dornelles and saw them pick up the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. But that film pushes the extremes of the genres it explores. Neighbouring Sounds excels because its genre gear shifts are often indiscernible – a family drama subtly shifts into something more menacing almost unnoticeably, until the realisation dawns this world is facing collapse from the weight of its own history.
Three reasons to watch Neighbouring Sounds
The killer ending. Jumping from one genre to another, Filho’s film shifts from family drama to something darker, bringing together all the strands of his intergenerational portrait.
A different take on Brazilian life. Neither located in the – all too often – clichéd world of Brazil’s favelas or its beaches, Filho’s film offers an immersive portrait unlike any other film.
A primer on one of world cinema’s most exciting new directors. With his recent Cannes win, this is a chance to see a director arrive with a feature debut that is fully formed, heralding an original new voice on the world stage.
Life in a middle-class neighbourhood in present day suburb of Recife, Brazil, takes an unexpected turn after the arrival of an independent private security firm. The presence of these men brings a sense of safety and a good deal of anxiety to a culture which runs on fear. Meanwhile, Bia, married and mother of two, must find a way to deal with the constant barking and howling of her neighbour's dog.
A slice of "Braziliana", Neighbouring Sounds is a mesmerising reflection on history, violence and noise from film critic-turned-director Kleber Mendonça Filho. Taking a broad, diverse set of strikingly realistic characters, Filho paints a rich portrait of a community connected and engulfed by fear, desire and the incessant murmur of modern life.
Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighbouring Sounds is available to watch now on demand, with Curzon Home Cinema