Noted film maker Walter Salles, brave attempt of this Portuguese language film “Abril Despedacado” (in its English title “Behind the Sun”), which is inspired by Albanian author Ismail Kadaré’s novel Broken April, about the honor culture in the North of Albania.
Walter Salles with his reputation of being top 50 film makers of global prominence, previously brought us the Academy Award-nominated ‘Central Station’ and later made ‘Motorcycle diaries’, Abril Despedacado is a combined Brazilian/French/Swiss production, shot entirely in Bahia, city of Oliveira dos Brejinhos, and in the cities of Caetité and Rio de Contas. This film won the Little Golden Lion award at the 2001 Venice Film Festival. It was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the BAFTA Film Awards and the Golden Globe Awards.
It’s 1910, the story set in the rugged badlands of Northeastern Brazil. The film begins in the darkness, the silhouette of a ten-year-old kid, walks the countryside, announcing in his narration that he has finally been given a name, ‘Pacu’, the only gift he has probably ever received in a dreary life spent working with a spiteful, iron-fisted father, soft-spoken mother and twenty-year-old brother/best friend Tonho, forever growing, cutting, and crushing sugar cane in a desolate region of the country, far from the industrial revolution – “in the middle of nowhere, behind the sun.”
The protagonist Tonho, who is the middle son of an impoverished farm family, the Breves, in the backdrop of land dispute between families of Breves and Ferreiras, interleaved into an incongruous and bloody code of conduct witch is decimating both families over time. Tonho is in the line to kill and die in a continuing blood feud with the Ferreiras. We got to realize that the feud unending for generations between Breves and Ferreiras over the quarrel for the land. They are locked into a series of tit-for-tat assassinations of their sons, an eye-for-an-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth. Entrenched in this choreography of death is a particular code of ethics among the communities “Blood has the same volume for everyone. You have no right to take more blood than was taken from you.” Life is suffused with a sense of futility and stoic despair.
Here comes the surprise- in fact, this code of conduct is inspired by the Kanun, a code originate from remote upland portions of northern Albania, and even though exist little – if any – parallels between this different cultures, the Brazilian’s screenwriting and direction work become this adaptation believable for the reality of the arid back lands of Brazil, something worthy of note and consideration. Just considering historical parallels, one would ask what’s Kanun about? This can be interpreted in any Devanagari or Persian language too, as the meaning is same, which means law of the land.
Just under the pressure from his father, Tonho kills one of the Ferreira sons to avenge the murder of his older brother. This act marks him as the next victim. Tonho’s younger brother is addressed only as the Kid (before his naming as ‘Pacu’ by the family. Anticipating the future loss, his parents don’t give him a name. The Kid is an imaginative and loving child, whose spirit will not break in the face of harsh parenting, brutalizing isolation, and numbing poverty. The Kid’s love encourages Tonho to question his fate.
Tonho in his abysmal and inner disturbance gets himself in the tight noose; the movie gets into the most interesting transference, as he discovers love in Clara, a member of the Picolino School of Circus Arts. She is a striking young fire eater and sideshow artiste who travels into a nearby town to entertain the locals. Her relationship with Salustiano, a co-performer, proves mysterious to the Tonho, both smitten by her beauty, adding a sensuous edge to the second half of the film. She ultimately provides the key to salvation, to breaking the cycle of death, symbolically reflected in a black armband worn by Tonho that proclaims him a marked man as all of life’s possibilities open up for him. In all-Walter Salles, renders three basic themes of the film, i.e. the family; the love & the war- the solicitousness of being a man is born to live, and not to prepare for life into unaccustomed earth.
The movie is divinely framed in its landscapes, pure and breathtaking wide-screen photography takes us to a magical realism, and a new high. For sure the audience would feel remotely tempted to return to our normal selves and such is a visual experience by the photographer genius of Walter Carvalho. The poetic intensity are wonderfully induced in the musical score of heat and hopelessness in the scratching existence, tunes us to the nowhere world of enchanting music of Antonio Pinto, as remote as possible in the corner of Latin America. Walter Salles determined direction bring the flair together, eventually drives the viewers to identify and consents the film to humanize the characters. Bravo, a new cinema utopia and the renaissance of Brazilian filmmaking is there to stay for long time….
- Directed by Walter Salles
- Produced by Arthur Cohn
- Written by Karim Ainouz; Sergio Machado and Walter Salles
- Based on the novel ‘Broken April’ by Ismail Kadare
- Cast: Rodrigo Santoro; José Dumont & Rita Assemany
- Music by Ed Cortes; Antonio Pinto & Beto Villares
- Edited by Isabelle Rathery
- Distributed by Buena Vista International
- Release dates: September 6, 2001
- Run time of 105 minutes
- Country : Brazil-France-Switzerland
- Language: Portuguese