Pras on World Films: THE HOUSE OF SAND

House of Sand (Widescreen)THE HOUSE OF SAND was a surprise Brazilian film that far exceeded its neo-realistic goal and turned into a lush visually rich saga of three generations of women living in the vast desert wastelands of northern Brazil.Anchored by veteran actress Fernanda Montenegro (in multiple and multi-generational roles) this film was amazingly filmed in the highest definition for commercial cinema under extremely challenging desert conditions. I have seen Fernanda Montenegro in another highly acclaimed film “CENTRAL STATION”, where she reached up to wider emotional palate.

In HOUSE OF SAND, Montenegro has almost allowed the shifting desert sands to become a co-actor in telling this powerful intergenerational story spanning a period from 1910 through 1960.

Indeed, the film-maker’s first stroke of genius in choosing a 2K high-definition format to film this ensured that each grain of sand was clearly visible as the dunes shifted in the winds devouring all forms of shelter forcing the extremely poor inhabitants of the land to move away constantly from its path.

The resulting visual impact of the story is like very few films I have seen. I suspect, barring documentaries, not many feature-filmmakers would bother to use a desert location as vast and as barren to tell such a rich visually stirring film, resisting the use of artificial studio sound-stage and sets. Instead recreating an entire desert settlement at a remote location hundreds of miles away from nearest civilization is a testimony to the director’s conviction to this production.


                                                                                                                                                          What is Inspiration?
by Andrucha Waddington, director of The House of Sand
When I saw Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes, I was totally taken by such an intimate, powerful and surreal movie which reminded me of Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel. Films that we hardly see in contemporary cinema. Films that go beyond our imagination and make us think about a human’s basic instincts.

Luis Buñuel is one of my favorite directors and his universe makes us believe in the impossible, and encourages us to create unexpected worlds and environments. My first kiss with my first girlfriend was during a screening of That Obscure Object of Desire in 1984 in Rio de Janeiro. I’ll never forget how that film made me an adolescent and for the first time I fell in love. Films have the power to change our lives, to make us think about things we never dared think before; films transport us to the unknown. This power comes from the meaning of each film and how each life we see on the screen relays all the experiences that we have had in our history, creating a connection with our memories, feelings and emotions.

The idea that becomes a film can come from a book, a painting, a dream, a scene in the streets, an article in the newspaper, an object that makes us think about something. The inspiration is the strangest feeling that activates the intuition and from that moment on we know that this idea will become a movie.

The story of The House of Sand was developed from a photograph of an abandoned house buried in the dunes of the sandy plains of Northeastern Brazil. I never saw this photograph but Luiz Carlos Barreto, upon his return from Ceará, told me the story behind the photograph and suggested I make a film about a woman who lived in this house who had to fight against the sand her entire life. That same night I had a dream mixing this image with Teshigahara’s images and when I woke up the next day, I called Barreto and we decided in that moment that this film should be written—and for two of Brazil’s most acclaimed actresses, Fernanda Montenegro and her real-life daughter, Fernanda Torres. This is the first time these two actresses play main roles in the same film and more than that they share their characters across the 20th century (from 1910 to 1969) in this remote and amazing desert in Maranhão State. Five years after that dream I can say that Barreto had an intuition.

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