fri 21/06/2024

The Dead and the Others review – dreamlike journey set in indigenous Brazilian community | reviews, news & interviews

The Dead and the Others review – dreamlike journey set in indigenous Brazilian community

The Dead and the Others review – dreamlike journey set in indigenous Brazilian community

Cannes-winning docudrama observes the clash between ancient tradition and modern life

Henrique Ihjãc Krahô on a spiritual quest in The Dead and the Others

The Dead and the Others won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes in 2018, perhaps due to the supreme devotion to subject and place that this macabre work exhibits. It is a film of startling visual power and mood, with a drifting storyline that becomes bizarrely captivating.

Directors João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora spent nine months living with the Krahô people of northeastern Brazil, and their dedication has brought an anthropological touch to the drama.

Part of the documentary effect comes from the directors’ patient observation of landscape. Shot in 16mm in a rural region of lush forests, hidden waterfalls and burnt plains, the images that emerge capture the glowing mystery of place. Yet the camera is no foreign observer. Eerie close-ups and hand-held takes add to the mood of immersion. In place of a conventional soundtrack, natural sounds of cicadas, trickling water and wind create their own orchestral swell.

The narrative follows fifteen-year-old Ihjãc (Henrique Ihjãc Krahô) who hears a troubling message from his dead father. Ihjãc has failed to carry out the necessary funeral rituals that are a part of his tribe’s doctrine of farewelling the dead. Ihjãc is unwilling to cut the emotional bond he still shares with his father, but which his tribe demands of him. We witness the way he painfully distances himself from his wife and relatives.

The Dead and the OthersHe falls into emotional turmoil following another dream-scene in which a macaw tells him that he will become a shaman. Unwilling to confront this personal mystery, Ihjãc leaves his tribe to pursue treatment in a nearby town. The departure feels abrupt and jarring as the film moves from rural isolation to sterile hospital interiors. Ihjãc is not merely confronting his past but tearing away his inherited identity. Yet the directors manage to unobtrusively frame this journey within the broader clash between ancient and modern ways of living.

In order to achieve a subtle pathos in this messaging, the film holds firm to its slow burn pacing. Scenes drift in and out of each other with a dreamlike languor that demands persistent attention from viewers. Almost all the actors were unprofessional. Many scenes were shot with completely improvised dialogue. The casual doco-effect is achieved, but many scenes thereby lack tension or pay off.

Renée Nader Messora’s cinematography always seems to rescue the situation by extracting the uncanny beauty lurking within place. In balance with the low-key documentary style, each shot seems perfectly controlled, and fine-tuned to disclose just enough to invite the viewer in. In one long shot we see the decayed ruins of a building set within an overgrowth of trees and shrubs, hinting at past government presence in the region. It is a subtle way of suggesting the lasting contact and contest between cultures that the film invites us to question.

Ihjãc is unwilling to cut the emotional bond with his father, but which his tribe demands of him


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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