The arid badlands of Bahia, northern Brazil, in 1910. Among those subsisting off the sugarcane are the Breves: rigid authoritarian patriarch (Dumont), long-suffering but loyal wife (Assemany), young Pacu (Lacerda) and 20-year-old Tonho (Santoro) - unlikely to see 21, given the age-old feud between his family and the Ferreiras, who just slew his elder brother. Age-old notions of honour dictate the eldest son take revenge, thus ensuring the deadly cycle endures. So assured, bold, harmonious and fertile a mix of form and content is Salles' follow-up to Central Station, you'd never guess it was taken from an Albanian novel about Balkan animosities. Transposing the tale to his own country's harshest region at a time when farmers' feuds were rife, Salles uses the milieu not only to assemble some astonishingly luscious images, but to reflect on the relationship of economics and tradition to individual freedom. At the same time, by highlighting ritual and metaphor, he inflects the narrative (in its essential dynamics not unlike a Western) with a poetic clarity and richness reminiscent of Greek tragedy and myth.
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