×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin Film Review: ‘Praia do Futuro’

Set in Brazil and Germany, Karim Ainouz's stunning fifth feature portrays the evolution of a gay relationship with visual and sonic verve.

With:
Wagner Moura, Clemens Schick, Jesuita Barbosa, Savio Ygor Ramos, Sophie Charlotte Conrad, Fred Lima, Natascha Paulick, Emily Cox, Sabine Timoteo, Yannik Burwieck, Ingo Naujoks, Thomas Aquino, Christoph Zrenner. (German, Portuguese dialogue)

Two breakneck motorcycle rides — one across the sand dunes of a Brazilian wind farm, the other into the foggy abyss of a German autobahn — bookend Karim Ainouz’s stunning fifth feature, “Praia do Futuro,” and while the riders disembark for the intervening film, the exhilarating forward momentum between these scenes is near-constant. Part tactile gay romance, part inquisitive journey into self, this spare but sensually saturated story of lives lost and found in Fortaleza and Berlin frequently seems on the verge of losing control (apt, perhaps, for a study of lives lived on multiple edges), but its visual and sonic verve more than compensate for some overworked symbolism. LGBT-focused fests and distribs will rightly pounce, but Ainouz’s ultra-chic pic is propulsive enough to make waves in other arthouse markets.

From its florid chapter headings to the umpteenth application of David Bowie’s ubiquitous anthem “Heroes” over the closing credits, “Praia do Futuro” boasts any number of elements that would prove irksome or uninspired in films with a less generously romantic spirit or a less muscular formal sensibility. Ainouz, who broke out in 2002 with his zesty debut feature, “Madame Sata,” but is here making his first competish appearance at one of the European majors, builds his films strong enough to sustain a bit of kitsch — the script may hammer home its land-and-water metaphors for all they’re worth, but the sheer heft of the feelings at play here override such qualms. Rather like the two strapping lovers at the center of his narrative, Ainouz’s visual storytelling says most when it speaks least.

Press notes proudly proclaim that “Praia do Futuro” is the first ever co-production between Brazil and Germany; certainly, both countries’ tourist boards should be happy with its sun-baked depiction of the former’s coastline (the film is named for a particularly idyllic beach) and mistily atmospheric vision of the latter’s capital. On a more personal level, however, this alliance seems significant for the Brazilian-born, Berlin-based director, who may or may not be revealing something of himself in his protagonist’s extended journey.

The first of three chapters, set in Brazil and titled “The Drowner’s Embrace,” wastes little time lighting the spark between Donato (Wagner Moura, never better), a lifeguard at the titular beach, and Konrad (Clemens Schick), an ex-military thrill-seeker from Germany, in circumstances that don’t seem terribly conducive to romance. Konrad and his holiday companion are caught in a nasty undercurrent while taking a casual dip; Donato successfully saves the former, but Konrad’s friend is swallowed by the sea. Konrad seeks immediate solace in sex with his rescuer, though when their relationship deepens — and it becomes clear that his friend’s body will not be found any time soon — he invites Donato to return with him to Germany. Though it entails leaving behind his frail mother and adoring 10-year-old kid brother, Ayrton (Savio Ygor Ramos), Donato impulsively accepts.

Chapter two, “A Hero Cut in Half,” observes the lovers as they settle together in the colder but more liberating climes of Berlin. Donato, who appears to have been living closeted in Brazil, becomes fully acquainted with his sexuality — though the pull of his family, and the lure of the beach, tempt him to return home. “Everything will be fine when the future arrives,” says a kindly bartender during one of Donato’s bouts of homesickness. The third chapter, “A German-Speaking Ghost,” suggests it may not be as simple as all that: Jumping eight years forward in the narrative, we find the lovers separated but brought together by an agitating figure from the past.

Ace lenser Ali Olcay Gozcaya is as responsible as the writers for defining this clean three-act structure, as his dramatic shifts in light and palette imply as much about the characters’ psychologies as they do their surroundings. The raw rush of sexual attraction in Brazil is rendered in hot primaries, evolving to manifold foggy grays and spots of industrial brightness as the action shifts to Europe; blue, it turns out, is both the warmest and most frigid color. At its lushest and most kinetic, the cinematography conspires with the astonishingly layered score by Hauschka (an alias for German pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann) to create positively narcotic surges in emotion and sensation, mirroring the characters’ own emotional peaks and troughs.

Down to the geometric, pop-hued credits, not one aesthetic element of the film’s construction has been ill considered, though stylistically, Ainouz is something of a magpie. There’s a touch of Jacques Audiard to the film’s oblique, movement-driven opening, and Michelangelo Antonioni to its later, chillier stretches of landscape-fixated mysticism. (“The Disappearing Ocean” might have been a more evocative title.) It’s certainly hard not to think of Claire Denis and the queer, sinewy physicality of “Beau travail” during a mesmerizing sequence of lifeguards practising calisthenics on the beach — Hauschka’s score, too, has its Tindersticks-esque stretches. Like the best appropriators, however, Ainouz works any such scraps into a patchwork that is consistently his own. This is filmmaking that responds to other film much as it does to existing music or architecture — part of a moving world, there to be absorbed and reflected.

Popular on Variety

Berlin Film Review: 'Praia do Futuro'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 11, 2014. Running time: 106 MIN.

Production: (Brazil-Germany) A Petrobrasp, Sabesp presentation of a Coracao da Selva, Hank Levine Film, Detailfilm, Watchmen Prods. production in association with HBO Latin America Originals. (International sales: The Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Georgia Costa Araujo, Hank Levine. Executive producers, Luciano Patrick, Andro Steinborn. Co-producers, Fabian Gasmia, Henning Kamm, Christopher Zitterbart.

Crew: Directed by Karim Ainouz. Screenplay, Felipe Braganca, Ainouz. Camera (color, widescreen), Ali Olcay Gozcaya; editor, Isabela Monteiro de Castro; music, Hauschka; production designer, Marcos Pedroso; costume designer, Camila Soares; sound, Danijo Carvalho, Dirk Holmann; supervising sound editor, Waldir Xavier; visual effects supervisor, Jean-Michel Boublil; line producer, Herbert Gehr; assistant director, Maria Farkas; casting, Armando Praca, Uwe Buenker, Antje Buenker.

With: Wagner Moura, Clemens Schick, Jesuita Barbosa, Savio Ygor Ramos, Sophie Charlotte Conrad, Fred Lima, Natascha Paulick, Emily Cox, Sabine Timoteo, Yannik Burwieck, Ingo Naujoks, Thomas Aquino, Christoph Zrenner. (German, Portuguese dialogue)

More Film

  • Olivia Colman in the film THE

    'The Favourite' Reigns in Craft Categories of European Film Awards

    Tragicomedy “The Favourite” has walked away with four craft prizes – cinematography, editing, costume design, and hair and makeup – of the European Film Awards. The craft awards were decided by a jury drawn from various below-the-line professions. The 32nd European Film Awards will take place on Dec. 7 in Berlin. Robbie Ryan picked up [...]

  • Love You Forever

    'Love You Forever' Heads for Valentine's Day Release

    Hong Kong’s Edko Films has set a February 2020 release for upcoming romantic drama “Love You Forever.” The film is directed by Yao Tingting, who previously made another nostalgic romance “Yesterday Once More,” which went on to enjoy a $27 million global success in 2016. Edko’s Bill Kong is named as producer. The new film [...]

  • The Irishman

    Film News Roundup: 'The Irishman' Wins Capri Film Festival Screenplay Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Steven Zaillian’s script for “The Irishman” wins an award, MGM hires a trio of marketing execs, MTV Documentary Films sets three new projects; and “The Caretaker of Lorne Field” is becoming a movie. AWARDS Steven Zaillian’s screenplay for Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will receive the best original screenplay award at [...]

  • Saturday Fiction

    'Saturday Fiction' Yanked From China's Golden Rooster Film Festival on Eve of Debut

    Just a day before its scheduled China debut, director Lou Ye’s latest film, “Saturday Fiction,” has been pulled from its slot as the opener of the mainland’s Golden Rooster Film Festival because of unspecified “internal production problems,” according to Chinese film website Mtime. Speculation has been spreading online that it will also be yanked from [...]

  • DeVon Franklin

    DeVon Franklin Signs First-Look Deal at Paramount Pictures

    DeVon Franklin has signed a first-look producing deal at Paramount Pictures. Under his Franklin Entertainment banner, Franklin previously produced inspirational and faith-based films, including this year’s “Breakthrough,” starring Chrissy Metz, as well as “Miracles From Heaven,” with Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, and the animated film “The Star,” toplined by Zachary Levi, Gina Rodriguez, Oprah [...]

  • Harriet Movie BTS

    'Harriet' Costume Designer Paul Tazewell on How He Crafted Harriet Tubman's Look

    For many, Harriet Tubman’s journey is one we’re taught about in school. We know she’s a heroine, an abolitionist who led slaves to their freedom via the underground railroad. Unless you’ve read the books by Kate Clifford Larson or Beverly Lowry, “We didn’t receive the whole story,” says costume designer Paul Tazewell. Until now. Kasi [...]

  • Viacom HQ LA

    ViacomCBS Sets HR and Inclusion Chiefs

    ViacomCBS has named corporate heads of HR and inclusion as the companies prepare for the merger that is set to close early next month. The soon-to-combine Viacom and CBS have tapped Nielsen alum Nancy Phillips to serve as exec VP and chief people officer. Viacom alum Marva Smalls will serve as global head of inclusion, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content