“Neighboring Sounds” of Fear and Suspicion

Neighboring Sounds is a fascinating, sometimes frustrating, sometimes humorous  Brazilian film about things that are hidden, and about the fear the haves sometimes harbor about the have-nots (or have-less). Set in the sun-filled coastal  town of Recife, its cast of characters almost all inhabit a single building—a high-rise—that, like other high-rises in the city, is also near some much less-prosperous favelas (or shantytowns) that happen to supply some of the domestic help employed in said high-rises. On one level this is a movie about class and wealth differences in a modern South American setting, but the director, Kleber Mendonça Filho (directing his first fiction feature film), chooses a subtle, mysterious approach here—though it’s possible as an American there are parts that simply went under my radar. That said, the engine that moves the plot forward involves an increasing crime rate near the high-rise, and the consequent concern of its residents. Suddenly a man in a brown vest with a business card appears, offering some private security—a 7pm to 7am watch. Some people are more interested than others—one, a mother of two children, has as much interest in getting rid of a noisy dog than anything else, while the wealthy patriarch of the building and his son have a greater desire than ever to keep safe—especially when they suspect they have someone in their own family who is skirting the edge of the law.

Without giving too much away, it’s important to note a couple things: one, “Neighboring Sounds” is not a traditional thriller in any sense of the word, though it does keep us tense and guessing at times, wondering what a scene might mean without being fully informed, even at the end. Second, the theme—and this is merely one possibility among others—is wrapped up in its structure, which is one of closed doors, fences, fears and the indestructibility of a traumatic past. A final note (unless you’re already familiar with the recent history of Brazil):  it’s important and helpful to know that around 1984, the military regime in Brazil ended its twenty year reign, leading to a more open and democratic era.  Keep this in mind as you get close to the end of the film.

Not rated, but is the equivalent of an R movie.


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Written by David


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