Dir: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Country: Brazil (2013)
Former film critic Kleber Mendonça Filho’s paranoid drama follows the events which take place in an affluent street in Recife, northern Brazil after a private security firm is employed following a spate of car-stereo thefts.
Some great cinematography, an interesting concept and the odd moment of humour can’t save the fact that it’s very difficult to emotionally engage with the characters, which are either underdeveloped or uninteresting. Various strands of plot go nowhere, and “tension” is repeatedly employed using a typical trope which normally occurs in the opening reel of a horror film; rumbling sound-design builds to a sudden cut to a more brightly-lit scene — in which nothing happens. It is clear that this is intended as a comment on the paranoia endemic in middle-class Brazil — but it doesn’t translate into a compelling experience for the viewer — more an exercise in ennui.
A frustrated single mothers attempts to silence a neighbours barking dog (valium, high-frequency speakers etc) provide some humour, but ultimately this film is boring and self-indulgent. A seemingly endless catalogue of anticlimaxes and non-events lead to a final “twist” — which occurs off-screen. Some scenes seem to have been thrown in with little or no clear reason, such as a visit to a ruined cinema in the country, in which João, the closest thing the film has to a protagonist, mimes out a scene from a vintage movie with his new lover. Maybe I missed the reference, but it felt like Mendonça bunged it in because he liked the building.
It’s a crying shame — with better pacing, plot and character development, Neighbouring Sounds could have been a great film. As it stands, this is the most soporific work I’ve sat through since Gus Van Sant’s Last Days. At least I had the brains to walk out of that…