'Bacurau' movie review: A confounding, dazzling and disturbing watch

Wild west: A still from Bacurau

Wild west: A still from Bacurau  

The beguiling Brazilian film with its critique of politics rings true for India too

A gentle melody, a satellite going up from the Earth to the sky, the camera zooming in on the earth from up above to a long stretch of road with a solitary truck and an accident on the way of a biker and a truck loaded with coffins. All leading up to the milestone for the rural town of Bacurau that states, ‘17 kilometres away’ and that “if you go there, go in peace”. A preemptive warning or an enticing invitation for what lies ahead? The vivid opening sequence of the Brazilian film Bacurau sets the tone for what follows—one of the most beguiling of recent films; that captivates just as much as it confounds, dazzles as much as it disturbs.

The enigma is rooted in the telling and the tone and tenor that keeps changing as the narrative progresses. It starts off by following the tenets of a classic Western improvised to get the story rooted in the distinct space and context that it emerges from. And then somewhere in the middle it takes a sharp bizarre turn to become a seige thriller and an uber violent game of sorts, of armed combat. There are weird futuristic sci-fi--flying saucers and drones thrown in as well.

A young lady returns to her small town of Bacurau for her grandmother’s funeral. Bacurau is where all kinds of strange, sinister things are happening. Not just has its water supply been cut off and mobile signals are weakening but it has even disappeared from satellite maps and faces the threat of unknown, mysterious enemy. American mercenaries? White colonialists? Greedy corporates? Environmental predators? Plain menace? Or all of these?

The film, set as it is “few years from now”, is a dire allegory for the dystopian future (and the present as well) full of disorder and disarray? Or is it all about doffing a hat to the unity and resilience of the community of underdogs that will eventually overcome the foes from outside? Trust my COVID-19 hit mind and overthinking but while watching it the second time it felt as though Filho and Dornelles had somehow seen the future. A bit too far-fetched a correlation, alright but one can be pardoned for harbouring such thoughts in these desperate times. After all, the whole world is a Bacurau right now resisting the corona enemy.

The trenchant critique of the politics and politicians is just as relatable to our own world—the lack of law and order, gangs running amuck, an uncared for, forsaken electorate, a hateful local politician, corrupt government. Where have we experienced it first hand? In waterless Bacurau it needs to be delivered by truck, bullet-riddled ones at that and the only reassurance for getting a regular supply is given when the local politician comes canvassing for votes for a second term. Uncannily familiar again. But will he still remember the promise after winning the seat? That’s anybody’s guess.

Bacurau is currently streaming on MUBI

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 8:42:07 AM |

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