Behind The Sun Review
In the first decade of the XXth century, a family struggle to survive from the fruit of the Brazilian earth: modern agriculture has made the sugar cane collapse in value and a generation-old feud with their richer neighbours had resulted in the loss of most of their land. The vendetta has recently been reignited with the eldest son of the family being murdered by their rivals - honour is the last thing they have left so the middle child Tonio, barely 20, has to avenge his brother's blood. Will he be able to go through with this absurd vendetta or should he just run away and abandon his family? Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, he sets off early in the morning with his father's rifle strapped to his shoulder...
Behind The Sun, Salles followup to Grand Central Station, is a stunning visual experience with some exquisite cinematography and a beautiful use of natural warm tones. Filmed in 2.35, Salles makes good use of the format both in the long shots and in the closeups of the actors faces. Without being too flashy or clever, he manages to prove that an image can look superb without needing much more than intelligent camera positioning and tasteful composition.
The acting doesn't let the film down either with a tremendous performance from the family children with Pacu, the 7 year old child, stealing the show and providing a genuinely moving performance of a child trapped in an adult world. The pacing of the story seemed slightly reminiscent of Wim Wenders and therefore may be deemed a little slow for some people but the story unfolds in its own time and is all the better for it. The soundtrack, although relatively sparse throughout the film, works tremendously well on the key scenes without seeming too affected.
Although there have been many fine films on this subject topic - Jean de Florette springing immediately to mind - this film finds a voice of its own quite easily and escapes the risky pitfall of style over substance. For some reason the Miramax stamp on the film has meant that many critics have labelled it as simplistic symbolic doodling which I fail to comprehend: this is a superb effort from Salles best viewed on the large screen - don't miss it.