Neighbouring Sounds (aka O Som ao Redor / Neighboring Sounds) review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
A tense, urban and auditory stimulating Brazilian piece from first time feature film director and writer Keiber Mendonça Filho Neighbouring Sounds (Portuguese title O Soma ao Redor) is an examination of a densely populated city street in North Eastern Brazil.
Opening with one of those everyday petty crimes all too familiar to those living in cities Neighbouring Sounds unfolds around the presence of a newly arrived security firm who promise to bring some much needed safety to the uneasy residents. With character’s whose lives are already troubled with both the major and minor problems of the working and middle classes: including a frustrated and desperate mother whose new born can not sleep for the constant barking of a local dog and whose physical frustration can only be released through a lone sexual encounter atop a washing machine, or cousins who tenuous familial link to an ex-plantation owner makes a constant undercurrent of fear and uncertainty, never mind the normal problems of a dysfunctional family; Neighbouring Sounds is an engaging and intense exploration of a world still overshadowed by a recent past that included slavery and class and race segregation.
Filho’s use of sound is, as the film’s title suggests, the central theme of the piece; the constant cacophony of such an over populated place juxtaposes itself against a chilling silence in a dream sequences that forces the audience to question which of the two extremes is most comforting.
With a hugely open ended finale Neighbouring Sounds may well frustrate many viewers, although this is all part of its gravitas; with out the ambiguous and ambivalent ending Filho’s film surely would not truly mirror the mixed reality of those living in such situations. For the more open minded and expressive viewer Neighbouring Sounds offers a smorgasbord of emotional experience and a number of strong performances that bring the wonderful but troubled characters to life.