Set in 1910, BEHIND THE SUN, by Brazilian director Walter Salles, opens as young Pacu remembers when his brother Ignacio was shot by the feuding neighbors. Pa tells his other older brother Tonho that Tonho must shoot the eldest neighbor boy. Many members of this small, hardworking family died in the feud, and the family is down to two boys. Tonho shoots the neighbor boy, whose father then tells Tonho that Tonho has one month to live. Meanwhile, Pacu is entranced by the young circus women, Clara. Tonho and Pacu sneak out and go to the circus. Back home, Pa whips Tonho, so Tonho runs away to the circus, but returns before his month is up. Clara finds him, and they spend the night together. The neighbor tracks Tonho.
BEHIND THE SUN condemns a code of honor that destroys families and makes a redemptive appeal to break this archaic code. The photography is haunting. Regrettably, Christianity is sometimes portrayed as vengeful and distorted by ancestor worship, although there are prayers to Jesus and a redemptive climax. However, the Romantic resolution muddies the movie. In all, BEHIND THE SUN is a terrific insight into South American culture
(B, Ro, Ab, C, LL, V, S, NN, A, D, M) Moral worldview with strong Romantic & allegorical elements, some negative & some positive references to Christianity; 11 obscenities & 3 "Oh my God" type profanities; three men shot, one dies slowly, but not much blood, father slaps boy, father whips son, & man falls from swing; young man has affair with circus performer; upper male nudity & shadow nudity; alcohol; smoking; and, revenge condemned.
BEHIND THE SUN is a critically acclaimed Brazilian film by the renowned director Walter Salles, who directed CENTRAL STATION. Set in Brazil in 1910, it opens with a young boy, who is around 10-years-old, saying that he has just been given the name Pacu. The movie flashes back to a bloody, bullet ridden shirt blowing in the wind on a laundry line. Pacu watches the shirt and remembers riding on the shoulders of his brother Ignacio when his brother was shot by the neighbors, the Ferreiras, who are feuding with the Breves. Watching the blood drying on the shirt, Pacu’s father, known as Pa, tells his other older brother Tonho that Tonho must take revenge by shooting one of the neighbor’s boys, for they must protect their honor.
The Breves are a small, hardworking family. The family processes sugarcane with their oxen the old fashioned way. Many of the boys over the generations have died in the feud. Now, the family is down to two boys.
Tonho goes to the neighboring plantation and, at the appropriate moment, shoots the oldest son of the Ferreira family. He goes then with his father to the funeral. The patriarch of the neighboring family tells Tonho that he has one month to live, and when the shirt of the young man who Tonho shot turns yellow in the sun, then they will seek their revenge.
Meanwhile, Pacu sees a circus wagon traveling past his home. He is entranced by the young circus women, Clara, and she in turn gives him a book, although he cannot read. When he tells Tonho, they sneak out at night and go to the town to watch the two circus performers. Attraction flies between the young girl, Clara, and Tonho.
When they get home, Pa whips Tonho and tells him that because he’s going to die in a month he must work harder to process the sugarcane. Tonho runs away with the circus, but returns just before the month is up. Clara runs away from her stepfather to find him. They spend the night together in the barn. The neighbor tracks Tonho, and . . . .
BEHIND THE SUN is an incredibly well-produced movie. It clearly condemns the stupidity of a code of honor that would destroy these families. It makes a redemptive appeal to break the bondage of this archaic code.
The allegorical elements in the movie are mesmerizing. The little town is called the Stream of Souls, but, as Pacu says, there are no streams here, only souls.
The photography in BEHIND THE SUN is haunting, and the acting is wonderful, especially Ravi Ramos Lacerda as Pacu, who is wise beyond his years. Rodrigo Santoro plays Tonho as a matinee idol. Flavia Marco Antonio plays Clara with a deep knowledge of human nature.
Regrettably, as in too many movies, the father with his insistence on honor even in light of the death of his sons, is the villain. Furthermore, Pacu accuses God of messing up, Christianity is sometimes portrayed at times as vengeful and is distorted by ancestor worship, although there is a redemptive ending as well as heartfelt prayers, positive appeals to Jesus Christ and a powerful redemptive climax. However, the resolution muddies things with a strong Romantic element that seems to lead nowhere. This resolution’s open-endedness will appeal to students of foreign films, though it does muddy the premise and worldview of the movie.
In all, BEHIND THE SUN is a terrific insight into South American culture. For those who like foreign films, it is worth watching.
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