A clever and original social drama from Brazil directed by Kleber Mendonca Filho
The current resurgence in Brazilian cinema throws up a major work in Kleber Mendonça Filho's Neighbouring Sounds, an allegorical tale of class conflict set in a Recife condominium. From the opening scene, in which young mother Bia (Maeve Jinkings) hides a sedative in a steak and uses it to quieten the incessant barking of a neighbour’s dog, it’s clear that warning bells should be ringing within the complacent community.
Upwardly mobile estate agent João (Gustavo Jahn) invites his latest flame Sofia (Irma Brown) back to his apartment for sex, but upon leaving the next morning, they discover that her car has been broken into and the stereo stolen. As the building’s aging concierge is ‘pensioned off’ for sleeping on the job, the incident provides the trigger for the well-heeled residents to hire a security firm to guard their plush apartments and belongings. The danger, however, seems to come from within the community as well as from without; João suspects his cousin Dinho (Yuri Holanda) of theft, while Bia’s daily routine of sexual gratification thanks to her vibrating washing machine is enhanced by her purchase of soft drugs from the building’s staff. Landlord Francisco (WJ Solha) may well be at the hub of both the crime and the security presence, and Neighbouring Sounds builds up the tension about the true nature of his activities to a striking conclusion.
Filho’s film is a genuine ensemble piece, taking the community as a central character and delivering an artfully split focus on several individual stories; it’s only in the final scene that the film’s point becomes clear. Until then, there’s a series of well-observed, sometimes surreal scenes, with humour and menace behind closed doors. Neighbouring Sounds is a clever, original drama of social concern, with trivial incidents barely masking deep social fissures.
Neighbouring Sounds screened at Glasgow Film Festival. Limited release from Fri 22 Mar.