By Mónica Delgado
Bacurau arrived to Cannes’ official competition with high expectations after its predecessor Aquarius. Both films not only share actress Sonia Braga but also explore the social diversity through a radiography or the allegoric framework. However, Bacurau goes beyond and marks a different tone. It could be seen as a new chapter in the filmography of Kleber Mendonça Filho, which blurs the already known style of the filmmaker.
In this film, made in collaboration with producer Juliano Dornelles, has in its start a lot of magical realism, something quite typical to represent the peculiarities of Latin America, in a fictitious town where caskets expel water or where the churches serve as storage buildings and the schools have the latest technology despite being in the middle of Sertao, without any water. But this lesser arcade is affected by political abandonment, in a place where the inhabitants had created a micro cosmos and where the filmmakers create rarefied atmospheres with some codes from the western.
In the beginning, Bacurau poses itself as a compendium of some clichés of magical realism, driven by a character that returns to his father’s home but then blurs itself and becomes part of the town people. And in this first minutes of the film, the desire and recurrence of Latin American cinema to create fictitious communities shows up, like the Macondo from literature. Just as there is a Manayaycuna in Peruvian cinema (in Claudia Llosa’s Madeiunsa), Bacurau is a forgotten town in the middle of nowhere, that doesn’t appear in the maps, and lives the scarcity of water due to the appropriation of a dam by some tourists.
What in the beginning was posed as a “snail strategy” slowly crumbles to give part to a significant break: the presence of the character played by Udo Kier, a mercenary that utilized the town folks as bait for a kind of “hunger games” of these capitalist tourists driven by political interests. And this sudden appearance of the absurd and the gore makes the film improve, achieving some reminiscences of underground cinema filmmaker Christoph Schilngensief, who handled with dexterity the political and social parody without any political correctness. Thus, the participation of Kier isn’t a gratuitous one; he played with Schlingensief in several occasions, and is now a cult actor in several underground films with an extravagant cut. Something to remark is the scene between Kier and Sonia Braga through the rhythm of True, by Spandau Ballet.
It could be said that along the film from Jarmusch, this Cannes edition is becoming more closet to the genres, and with Bacurau confirms an intention of giving more freedom in the selections without the fear of placing in competition such a personal and weird work as is this allegory of a Brazil that only united, even in its insanity, can defeat the meanest enemy.
Directing: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho
Script: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho
Music: Mateus Alves, Tomaz Alves de Souza
Cast: Udo Kier, Sonia Braga, Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek, Karine Teles, Alli Willow, Brian Townes, Antonio Saboia, Barbara Colen, Julia Marie Peterson, Silvero Pereira, Edilson Silva, Thomas Aquino, Valmir do Côco, Buda Lira, Rodger Rogério, Uirá dos Reis, Clebia Sousa, Rubens Santos, Carlos Francisco Galán
Brazil, 2019, 132 mins