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This movie starts with a blood-stained shirt hanging under a strong
wind. We will learn, later on, that it belongs to the eldest son of a
small rural farmer (the Breves) in the drought-plagued, sun-drenched,
desperately poor Northeast region of Brazil. He was killed in an ambush
by a member of another family, the Ferreiras, starting a feud (which in
the past -- the year is 1910 -- was very common in this region and
could last for decades). Vengeance is required by the rough peasant's
honor system, but a truce period is dictated by the slow yellowing of
the blood stains under the sun.
One of the things that are extraordinary in this gorgeous movie is the way we learn all this. The slow tempo of images, their rough poetic beauty, with an eerie musical background, tells everything we must know without words, but with skillful dramatic suspense. A lot of symbolism is also present: for instance, the sugarcane mill operated by the Breves family is powered by a pair of bulls walking endlessly around. The family patriarch is behind them all the time, forcing with a whip and shouts their round about. The oxen are so used to it that when the yoke is removed at the end of the day, they continue marching by their own around the mill! So, this is an apt metaphor for the routine, yoked, forced existence of the family under the weight of the father's authority and of tradition, an existence they see as a kind of inescapable karma.
The remaining eldest son of the Breves (played superbly by Rodrigo Santoro) must now exact revenge on his dead brother. There is no way out, so, reluctantly, he does just that and kills the eldest son of the Ferreira family in a dramatic sequence, one of the best filmed I ever saw. He knows now that he will have a truce, too, until the bloodied shirt of his enemy yellows. His life is now divided into two, as the blind patriarch of the Ferreira clan tells him: the 20 years he has lived so far, and a week or so he still has to live, because death will surely come and he cannot dishonor his family by running away. The mutual killing cycle will so be like their bleak lives and the oxen's. It will be like two serpents eating each other tails until nothing remains, just a pool of blood (another touching metaphor described by one the characters). He has never known love, and will never know. April, the month when all this happened, was torn up (the meaning of the title in Portuguese, which was disgracefully altered in the English title).
The film's ambiance alternates between blinding sun and the dried up "caatinga" (the semi-arid plains typical of this region) and the darkness of the night, lighted only by primitive oil lamps and candles. Night always bring respite and rest, to the oxen as well as to the humans, but it also brings fear. The eldest son wants to escape from this life, to interrupt the oppressing lifestyle, to revolt against the symbol of all this, his father, and to stop the revenge cycle. He doesn't know how, but the sudden appearance of a two-person circus in the village changes everything. The metaphor is now apparent: a beautiful girl shows him that love is possible, that a new life elsewhere is possible, that there are many other things beyond his narrow horizon of poor peasant. His young brother gets a book as a gift from the girl and this opens up marvelous, fascinating storytelling and daydreaming, of constructing a new reality where the boy is hero and is desired, with a plot he can change at his will. Both brothers see a light at the end of the tunnel, a dark passage to a brighter day.
The movie paces up now to a climax that everybody is able to feel, the characters as well as the audience. The assassin is coming for him, the shirt stains have finally yellowed. Night falls and he meets for the first time his love. Heavy rain starts, a new metaphor, because it is so rare and so unexpected. Will this mean that there will be a way out for him, a meeting of a new life and world, a blossoming of life like the one is brought by rain in this parched land? How can he escape without dishonor to his family, without having to kill again?
The answer is at the same time simple and fully symbolic, too. I will not spoil the surprise, but I must say that is absolutely impressive and emotion-laden. When you see the film, you will understand the solution to this impasse, painful for some, liberating to others.
This is another triumph for young director Salles and his team, one of the best of the new breed of Brazilian cinema directors. His previous international success, "Central do Brasil" was excellent, too, and very properly incensed by critics and public alike. "Motorcycle Diaries" is also another movie by him, very well received. But "Abril Despedaçado" belongs to the rare category of a true masterpiece.
I think that - along with Central Station - this is the finest movie ever to
come out of Brazil. Walter Salles shows he can go beyond the cheap formula
of violence/misery/sex that populated most Brazilian films in the past.
While showing the true face of poverty, he doesn't nourish the expectation
with such corny stereotypes. That's chasing scene will stay in my mind
forever. I am glad to see that Brazilian cinema is experiencing its richer
moment since the 1960's.
The first time I've heard about Behind the Sun, I thought it was a tale based on the true story of two families in the state of Paraiba. The ongoing vendetta was in the news all over the 1970's. I was surprised to hear that `Abril Despedaçado' was in fact based on a book from an Albanian writer. It's amazing how the Brazilian Northeastern backdrops fit the plot perfectly. The movie describes the economical changes - cattle ranchers taking over the decadent sugarcane farms - that happen in that region following the end of slavery in the late 19th century.
The actors are superb - particularly the splendid veteran Jose Dumont, who plays the father; it is hard to believe that only nine of them are professionals! The photography is strikingly beautiful.
It impress me the reactions regarding the casting of Rodrigo Santoro for the role of Tonho. Has anyone ever met an average 1910's sugarcane picker of Brazil's Northeast region???? I don't see the same reactions when a young and handsome Al Pacino is chosen to play Serpico, or when Julia Roberts is cast to play Erin Brokovitch. How many roles Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt would get if casting directors took such nonsense seriously? Well, for me Rodrigo Santoro was a pleasant surprise.
Just as a note, this film was not shot at the Pampas, as someone said. The semiarid region in the Northeast of Brazil is known as Sertão (and that vegetation is called Caatinga). The vast grassy and treeless plains known as Pampas - great for cattle, you will not find cactuses or sugar cane there - are located in the South of Brazil and go all the way to Central Argentina. Thousands of miles away from the arid Northeast.
I loved this movie!
After reading some of the comments from American film fans on IMDb I must
admit I was a little wary about going to see this movie. I needn't have
worried though. To put it simply, this is the most beautifully shot film I
think I have ever seen.
Walter Salles seems to bring so much colour and life out of the screen and into the theatre it was just an awesome experience. That scene with Clara on the rope, the scene with Tonio on the beach and the chase sequence at the beginning were just stunningly shot.
It was strange that I was the only person in the cinema to see this movie, and at the same time it's a pity that people would rather suffer the likes of Kate and Leopold or Collateral Damage (!) than a masterpeice like this. No matter how "clunky" you think some of the symbolism is, it was refreshing to see something as moving.
I read a review of this by Anthony Minghella, and he said, "It's as close to poetry as cinema gets", and I couldn't agree more.
Top marks 10 out of 10. And no mistake!
"Behind the Sun" tells a simple story about two families locked in a blood
feud over sugar cane land in the late 19th century somewhere in a desolate,
parched Brazil. The film is no less than a masterwork of simplicity; a
richly textured, finely nuanced, artfully crafted drama which tells its
story as much through evinced emotion as through dialogue. Not for everyone,
"Behind the Sun" will likely be too austere for the public at large while
providing a feast for cinema purists. Thanks to Cohn, Salles, and crew for
their hard work in making a film for the few, not the many.
Note - I've viewed almost 900 films in the past three years and only rated two of them a 10. The first was "Band of Brothers". "Behind the Sun" is the second.
This movie is one that will leave your mind wondering for days thinking
can a director mix imagery, sensitivity, and poetry in a simple story.
movie will inspire all of those that want to see different ways of making
The reason why, in my opinion, this movie is so great is because the movie
does not give you all the information for you to understand it. It
functions more like a book. In several different instances there are long
sequences with no dialog, only body expression. This instigates the minds
the viewers to try to "fill-in the gap" by guessing what the character is
If you are looking for a new way to experience movies, please try this
I highly recommend it!!!
It is a MUST see! If you have the opportunity, please rent it! You'll not regret!
"And a little child shall lead them" - Isaiah 11:6
"An eye for an eye - until everyone is blind" - Pacu
A ten-year old (Ravi Ramos Lacerda) with a magnetic smile referred to only as "the Kid" (until given the name Pacu much later) narrates. "This is the story of me, my brother, and a shirt in the wind", he says at the outset. "When the blood on the shirt turns yellow, someone will die". Based on the Albanian novel, Broken April by Ismail Kadaré, Behind the Sun by Walter Salles (Central Station) is a story of revenge and brotherly love set in tiny Stream-of-Souls in northeast Brazil around 1910. A blood feud between two families over a piece of land has continued for generations. After a member of one family is murdered, a mourning period of one month is allowed, then the killing of a member of the other family takes place. This is the way they've always lived. "It's like two snakes I saw fighting," says one observer. "Each one was biting the tail of the other; they ate each other until nothing was left".
Since his brother Inacio was gunned down, another brother Tonio (Rodrigo Santaro) must protect the family's honor and avenge the murder. The family is poor and the father forces his sons to work in the burning sun growing sugarcane. "We are like oxen," Pacu says. "We go round and round and never go anywhere." When Tonio asks for peace, his father labels this as a dishonor to the family. Only when Pacu and Tonio meet the beautiful Clara (Flavia Marco Antonio), an itinerant circus performer, can the possibility of a different life be glimpsed. Realizing his longing to see new things, Tonio takes Pacu to the circus in a nearby town meeting Clara who also longs to escape from the circus. Though aware of his destiny, she visits him at home and they fall in love. In one of the loveliest moments in the film, Tonio holds a rope as Clara twirls above him faster and faster in a moment of exhilarating freedom. Seeing the joy on Tonio's face, Pacu knows that he alone must assume responsibility for ending the violence.
Behind the Sun occasionally lapses into self-consciousness, yet it is redeemed by the surreal beauty of the Brazilian landscape, the loving relationship of the two brothers, and the elemental power and relevance of the story. In this film, both families would rather be right than do what is nurturing. They accept the ritual of killing only because of some misguided notions about honor. Salustiano tells Clara, `They would rather kill than solve their problems; those are the real fanatics.' Any resemblance to people living or dead is not purely coincidental.
To be honest, I only rented the film so that I could swoon over handsome Rodrigo Santoro after watching his brief, but memorable role in the romantic comedy "Love Actually". Little did I know how good this film was. I didn't mind the subtitles because they were clear and non-complex. I loved hearing the language. I don't know; there's something mysteriously alluring about Portuguese; it has this smooth, almost rhythmic flavor about it. I was thoroughly entertained by the little boy they called "kid" aka "Puca" (played by Ravi Ramos Lacerda); he's basically a kid wanting to drown in the world of his fantasies but has to uphold these responsibilities of labor jus like the rest of his family. I found him to be sweet, assertive, and pure comedy. All the roles were praisingly convincing and held my attention the whole way through. I couldn't get over how young Rodrigo looked even though the movie was taped but only two years ago. hehe...young, but oh so adorable :o). He doesn't say much, but...sometimes, words just aren't necessary. Neways, I think the film's great. Not one metaphor or streak of symbolism seemed out of place; not one character seemed a bit too exaggerated or too thin in personality. I really liked this film. Honestly? I really did. =) hehe it has my vote.
I bought this film by chance to give myself a shot of culture, and wasn't really expecting it to live up to much. I had never heard of it before, but I liked the cover and the story sounded OK. However, I was in for a real treat. Beautifully shot against Brazilian landscapes and told through a cast of tremendously talented actors, especially, and most surprisingly, Rodrigo Santoro, of Love Actually fame. However, it is the little boy who really steals the show. He is fantastic and will have you reaching for the Kleenex. The beautifully told relationships between the families and the drama of the feuds just makes this film one of the best foreign films ever, and, if you can be bothered to read subtitled films, this is one you won't regret getting. It is really that good, and the cinematography is astounding. Sorry to keep talking in hyperbole, but it really is phenomenal.
This is a wonderful portrayal of human pride and stubbornness along with
love and duty. Most of the people in the western world don't understand
what's shown here. It's not about glorifying violence but in certain
cultures honor is everything and people would rather die than be
It shows the struggle between doing the right thing and doing the honorable thing. The struggle in Tonio between the duty and love. The "kid" Pacu steals the movie but the barren lands is just as much amazing as the movie itself. The cinematography adds just as much to the movie as the story. The same geography seen everyday seems so dreary but here it's so beautiful. All the characters are so helpless in their own situation and only two of them choose to break free. The girl and the kid. Yet they break everything apart what's holding the rest of them hostage.
It's a must see movie if you are one of those people who yearn for knowing more of what lurks inside our own hearts.
This film is so beautiful, from the actors, the setting, the cinematography,
the message...it was such a stunning and touching movie. A movie about
vengence. A movie about love among family. Brotherly love. I felt myself
transported and enraptured by this movie. More of a peek into time and
space rather than watching a movie, really. To be utterly forgotten that I
was watching this at home, from my VCR and feel as though I could taste the
dust and feel the grind of the sugarcane mill...Who knew one could extract
such sadness and anger from the sight of a bloodstained shirt, billowing in
the wind as if it were dancing? Walter Salles did. The pace was
deliberately slow. It's like reading a book very slowly, because you want
to soak in every word and don't want to reach it's inevitable end. So if
you'd rather watch a Kung Fu movie, fine.
Wonderful performances by Rodrigo Santoro (yes, he's gorgeous, can we all get over that and take his performance for what it's really worth? Tell me his doe-eyed, innocent, 'boy trapped in a man's body' performance wasn't convincing, cus it was to me), Jose Dumont as the rigid and exhausted father, and especially the charming, darling young Ravi Ramos Lacerda.
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