Behind The Sun

Director: Walter Salles

Inspired by Ismail Kadare’s novel Broken April, Walter Salles’s breathtakingly photographed, intimate epic film set in 1910 Brazil tells the story of two feuding families whose eldest sons keep retaliating against one another in a land battle of an eye for an eye that will never end in the foreseeable future. Our young narrator Pacu tells his story of life in what he calls “the middle of nothing,” a.k.a. Stream-of-Souls where his hardworking family farms the land while a shirt is hung outside bearing the blood of a recently deceased older brother. When the blood turns yellow, the next oldest brother Tonio must go to assassinate his brother’s killer in order to avenge his family’s honor but when Tonio decides he doesn’t want to continue this cycle of more violence and retaliation, he escapes to the circus where he falls in love with a beautiful motherless young woman. Visually poetic—Salles’s film is edited, directed and acted to exquisite perfection with some of the most dazzlingly unforgettable sequences in Brazilian cinema ever recorded on celluloid including some riveting point-of-views that remind me of the beautiful blend of sound and cinematography evidenced in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven. Watch for the simplistic beauty of Pacu swinging away on his creaky swing in his limited surroundings where he states earlier that “all we know is it’s above the ground and below the sun,” along with a frantic chase through the fields until a gunshot registers a jolt in the hearts of viewers, and most impressive, a gorgeously romantic scene that finds circus performer Clara twisting away on a rope-- flying through the air as Tonio spins her around and around. Romantic, sad, and haunting—while it’s less well known than the film that launched Salles (Central Station), I prefer this Shakespearan tale which was nominated as Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes but also won a few accolades including the Little Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.