Directed by: Karim Aïnouz
Starring: Wagner Moura, Clemens Schick, Jesuíta Barbosa
There’s nothing as unpredictable as people. Why anyone does what they do is a mystery artists of all stripes have been grappling with since we first managed to daub our behaviour onto cave walls. In Futuro Beach, Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz does a lot more than daub, creating a dreamily beguiling world that’s easy to get lost in without stumbling across answers to the questions posed.
He opens in sunny Brazil where two motorcyclists are racing across the sand towards a picturesque beach. Music pumping, they dismount and charge into the sea. It could be the first half of a music video until the swimmers get into trouble and Wagner Moura’s lifeguard Donato arrives to try and save them. He can’t help his man, the camera capturing frantic thrashing until a figure floats slowly down.
Struggling with the death, Donato seeks out the drowned man’s friend in the hospital. After an awkward start with Konrad (Clemens Schick), the two have sex on the way home and start a brief relationship that must end when the German returns to Berlin. Unable to deal with the loneliness, Donato follows, throwing his own life, and that of his family, into turmoil.
Out on a Brazilian beach, or in the middle of a wintry Berlin, Futuro Beach is an astonishingly beautiful film. Working with cinematographer Ali Olcay Gözkaya, there’s a sun-kissed gloss in his homeland that fades away when he arrives in Europe. Draining colour from the frame, Donato’s world, and everyone in it, take on pallid shades, only livened up by the occasional clubbing scene when vivid reds and flashing purples sear the screen. This look is all achieved with a wonderfully unhurried technique. Outside, sparse backgrounds are captured in wide shots, switching indoors the camera moves up into faces. Sex scenes between Donato and Konrad, of which there are several, are intensely vigorous, never held for too long.
The plot can’t match the impressive visual atmosphere. Split into three sections, the big decisions that mark out each act spring from nowhere. When Donato first asks Konrad to stay with him in Brazil, it’s all so sudden. When roles are reversed in Berlin, they ignore the subject before coming to blows the first time it’s raised. Donato makes a further series of odd decisions that are never explained, and yet are meant to provide the foundation for dramatic climaxes with his younger brother that end up feeling shallow as a result. Fear is supposed to lie at the heart of it all but everyone drifts too much to feel like they are ever in the grip of real anxieties.
Futuro Beach succeeds in creating a perfectly formed bubble to contain its story. It’s a shame that once it floats free of the dense atmospherics, there’s nothing to tie it back down again. A missed opportunity perhaps, but an undeniably attractive one.