Part of the Buena Onda: New Brazilian Cinema strand at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, Neighbouring Sounds is a compelling, vibrant look at the life of residents on a particular affluent street in Recife, Brazil. Their normality is interrupted with the arrival of a private security firm whom some of the residents are wary of.
The film is a tremendous showcasing of the talent of film critic-turned feature film director Kleber Mendonça Filho as he weaves together the different day-to-day trials and tribulations of these residents, taking the seemingly mundane and bringing it to vivid life with interesting, funny and engaging characters by giving us a behind-the-scenes look at their private lives.
It could very well be described as a realist soap opera of sorts, pushing us into the deep end from the outset and expecting us to keep up, never afraid to raise the stakes when you’re least expecting it as well as focusing on the minutiae of the everyday. It has a real sense of place to it, with an energetic feeling of freedom about the film despite us being kept almost entirely within the confines of one residential area. There’s a refreshing unpredictability at play here while at the same time feeling like there’s a purpose to it all.
As we’re taken on this small journey of interconnected lives – made believable with the help of naturalistic performances from its cast – the film feels alive and bubbling with energy, as much an auditory experience as a colourful visual one. The bustling sounds of life mixed with a powerful, almost assault-like soundtrack of booming noises and abrupt cuts to silence give the film a palpable power. Add to that some striking uses of unnerving dream sequences and you have quite a unique experience.
What really makes the film work is the fact that it’s an effective mix of character study and an examination of modern life where people are kept apart by more than just their four walls. And by the end it all connects in a way that shocks as much as it leaves you pondering. A confident, distinctive directorial debut.