Behind The Sun (Abril Despedacado) is the latest collaboration between producer Arthur Cohn and Brazilian director Walter Salles. The brilliant Central Station was the fruit of their last effort together and as a consequence, much was expected of this film. Behind The Sun is an adaptation of a book, Broken April, by Albanian author Ismail Kadare who wrote about Kunun, the code that governs blood feuds in the Balkans. To this inspiration, Salles and Cohn added a Greek tragedy convention borrowed from Aeschylus which allowed warring families to operate outside the law of the State when deciding reparation for blood spilled in feuds. Salles set the story in the Brazilian Badlands in 1910 and says he wanted to tell a story with fable-like qualities that could apply anywhere and in any era.
Walter and his brother Joao Salles are well known documentary makers in Brazil and all Walter’s feature films have a documentary feel. Arthur Cohn has won six Oscars, the most recent for last year’s documentary, One Day In September. He also produced the last five films that Vittorio de Sica directed.
Like Central Station, Behind The Sun uses a mostly non-professional cast but this is as far as comparisons go; Central Station was far and away the better film. Behind The Sun is worthy but not dynamic. The protagonists, with the exception of Ravi Ramos Lacerda playing the youngest brother who narrates the film, just are not that compelling. Salles attempts to tell a story about childhood, revenge and love with a twist but in reality we are served up an old-fashioned melodrama which attempts to milk sentimentality for all it’s worth. Last year’s Me You Them, also set in the Badlands and made by young Brazilian director Andrucha Waddington who assisted Salles on Central Station, was a better attempt at showing the world what families will do to survive.