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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.05.12] Brazil thriller drama

Neighbourhoods are interesting things; collections of people, sometimes very differing people, who share a common space. Sometimes the people know and talk to each other while other times they go out of their way to ignore those around them. In the middle class neighbourhood of Recife which is at the centre of Kleber Mendonça Filho's Neighbouring Sounds, the collection of individuals is certainly interesting but not necessarily memorable.

There's the woman who can't stand the barking of the dog next door and spends the entire movie trying to stop him from barking using all sorts of methods, there's Joao, the grandson of a wealthy land owner who owns a big part of the neighbourhood and there are a number of secondary characters that come in and out of the story but it's the arrival of the outsiders, a security team led by Clodoaldo, that is hired by the neighbours to keep an eye on the street throughout the night, that marks the beginning of strange occurrences.

There is a mystery at the centre of Neighbouring Sounds, one with roots that date back to an event which took place 20 years in the past, but it's a mystery that doesn't make itself apparent until the film's closing scene and lead up to it is so subtle that one missed clue is enough to derail the entire movie. It's a carefully built story of revenge and if you're paying close attention, the final moment sheds some much needed light into some of the stranger moments of foreshadowing peppered throughout the movie but it comes a little too late.

That's not to say that Neighbouring Sounds is a bad movie, on the contrary it features gorgeous cinematography which paints the neighbourhood as a beautifully inviting place while the sound design plays completely against the visuals, building an air of mystery and dread. It's some of the most effective use of sound I've heard in some time and is much more effective than the eerie music that tends to be used in horror movies, but technical goodness isn't enough to overlook the fact that Filho's movie is also one of the most long-winded and boring pieces of cinema of the year. It's a movie that constantly suggests that something big is coming in the next scene and then nothinig happens; for the most part Neighbouring Sounds is a collection of inconsequential moments that don't add anything to the overall story.

It's not difficult to appreciate the fact that technically speaking, Neighbouring Sounds is a beautifully made movie but the story doesn't live up to the delivery and the result is an occasionally interesting slow burn drama with overtones of a thriller. A few may find interest in Filho's look at contemporary Brazilian culture but in the end Neighbouring Sounds feels like a warm up for the director. If his next feature can provide more of the thriller with less of the high-brow cultural drama, we could be in for a treat.

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