Neighbouring Sounds (O som ao redor) (2012, Brazil, Kleber Mendonça Filho)
This IS a film. Aided by a rich sound design & visuals, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s film ensures an immersive cinematic experience. A viewer gets a ringside seat in one of Recife’s neighbourhoods to witness the daily activities of the residents, including their morning and nightly routines. Depicting the everyday reality would have been good enough, but Kleber Mendonça Filho enhances the experience by adding layers of memories and nightmares with a few smart cuts. As a result, the multi-layered film contains a subtle sense of dread but in a much subtler note than Michael Haneke's Caché. This means that even when viewers witness harmless events in and around an apartment complex, there is a sense that something sinister is going to happen. The viewer can't be passive and is instead forced to examine each frame and its accompanying sound to know what the characters are up to.
The Recife setting of a closed off apartment complex echoes the gated colonies of New Delhi, another city where each street is constantly watched by a number of people, ranging from drivers, cleaners to night watchmen. In New Delhi, there is a tension between urban and rural because people leave their village and smaller towns for the city on a daily basis. As Neighbouring Sounds progresses, it also becomes clear that there is a link between some of the city residents and the countryside and their actions committed in a rural region will result in an opposite reaction in the city.
2012 ---- 2013
After I saw Once Upon a Time in Anatolia at the end of April 2012, I wondered if there would be another film in 2012 which would knock the Turkish film from the #1 spot in my best of the year list. In the end, only one film, Holy Motors, managed to place above Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Now I feel the same about Neighbouring Sounds and wonder if any film in 2013 will remove it from my #1 spot for 2013's end of the year list. Of course, Neighbouring Sounds is a 2012 film and if I had seen it last year, it would have finished at #1, easily moving past Holy Motors. And Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a 2011 and it would have surely finished #1 had I seen it in the year of its release. As it stands, for the second straight year, two worthy foreign films are pushed into another calendar year’s evaluations.
The rest of the world have 7 months to deliver an excellent film otherwise the Brazilian film Neighbouring Sounds will be #1 end of 2013.