Review: Futuro Beach (Praia do Futuro)
Futuro Beach is a film that may upon a cursory, superficial examination be as opaque as the atmosphere of its closing shot. However, much as the fog, the source music and score paint in tones and moods; so does this film. In this painting it explores emotions unspoken through the most part via its imagery, edits, compositions and contrasts. However, this ought not scare anyone away as there is not some hidden mosaic that the viewer himself needs to refocus. The conflicts are mostly internal but the struggles and emotions are clear; insight into the cultures in question here will only deepen appreciation, but are not critical.
The synopsis from Strand Releasing is as follows:
Part gay romance, part inquisitive self-journey, FUTURO BEACH is a stunning examination of lives lost and found. Donato (Wagner Moura) works as a lifeguard at the spectacular but treacherous Praia do Futuro beach in Brazil; Konrad (Clemens Schick) is an ex-military thrill-seeker from Germany vacationing with a friend. After Donato saves Konrad from drowning, but fails to save his other friend, initial sexual sparks give way to a deeper, emotional connection. Donato decides to leave everything behind, including his ailing mother and younger brother, Ayrton, to travel back to Berlin with Konrad. There, he finds both confusion and liberation, and his journey for love soon turns into a deeper search for his own identity. Eight years later, an unexpected visit from Ayrton, brings all three men back together as they struggle to reconcile the pain of loss and longing, instinctively drawn to each other in search of hope and a brighter future.
The film’s three acts are headed with three title cards that introduce titular theme for each segment of the story: “The Drowner’s Embrace,” “A Hero Cut in Half,” and “A German-Speaking Ghost.” In the first portion of the film there is the struggle to overcome as a professional’s confidence and a foreigner’s relationship is torn apart. In this portion of the film, as in the rest of it, there is a struggle to balance relationships as Donato balances his relationship and responsibility to his younger brother Ayrton and forms a new bond with Konrad.
The first section does also set the stage for many parallels that the story plays with. The opening act closes with Ayrton on his own imagining himself as Iron Man fighting off an unseen assailant. This action will be mirrored when he is older and has found temporary refuge with a new companion to dull his pain. This superhero motif is clearly important as it is also referenced in the title to act two. It also serves the obvious function of illustrating a child’s idealized view of his older sibling. However, the fact that this theme comes back to reflect Donato’s angst as he struggles to decide on a path for his life is also highly significant.
“A German-Speaking Ghost” is not only a very fitting title to the section, but a fitting conclusion. Parallels again come into play as the film finds its climax on a beach much as it reached its first highpoint on one. The visuals in this film, and the activities that constitute screentime, are ones that need to be taken more for their significance than for the literal activity. an example being what is a character running to or from when they jump on to a bike and ride off.
This chapter title is also significant because for a while you are in a bit of doubt as to whom it refers to. In this film you not only have three distinct POVs that represent different life-experiences but you can identify with and understand all of them. There is a triumvirate of powerful performances (Moura, Schick and Barbosa) that feed off one another and take turns coming front and center.
The emotional currents and undercurrents are also strongly supported by the music both brought into the fold and created by Hauschka that allows the film to have the tenor that director Aïnouz usually desires to find in the narrative. The best evidence of this are the closing notes and frames, which act as the zenith of this symbiosis.
Futuro Beach is, from its start, about characters losing and trying to find themselves; connecting, disconnecting and trying to reconnect; saving each other and failing to save themselves; and, ultimately, finds beauty in the discomforts created by distance and yearning and the solitary journey of finding oneself. It takes a gamble with its narrative ellipse, but like a strong story it punctuates the end of its dramatic phrase properly and memorably.