Futuro Beach had a good run at film festivals following its debut in Berlin. That’s not really too surprising, as it’s the sort of movie that does well at fests, as it’s keen to show cinema as art and also present film more as a sensory and philosophical experience than simply as straightforward storytelling. As a result it’s not a film for everyone, but some will find it entrancing.
The movie is split into three chapters, the first introducing us to closeted Brazilian lifeguard Donato (Wagner Moura), who manages to save a German man called Konrad (Clemens Schick) from drowning, but is unable to rescue Konrad’s friend whose body is lost at sea. With both of them in need of solace and affirmation they sleep together. That leads to a relationship and the second chapter, where Donato follows Konrad back to Berlin. This gives Donato the chance to explore his sexuality and the possibilities of life away from the pressures of family and Brazilian society. However, not everything runs smooth for the couple.
The third chapter sees Donato back in Brazil some years later when he has to deal with the unexpected arrival of both Konrad and his younger brother Ayrton (Jesuíta Barbosa), who understandably feels as if he was abandoned by his sibling.
Futuro Beach is a film of endless contradictions – it’s about myriad things and yet often feels like it’s not about very much at all, it digs deep into its characters while never quite scratching the surface and offers great passion while feeling oddly detached.
While that’s interesting I couldn’t quite escape the feeling that director Karim Aïnouz must have spent a huge amount of time working on the plot and characters with the actors, figuring out exactly where they comes from, their motivations, psychology and desires, but then got so hooked up on the movie’s somewhat geometric, almost architectural style that he doesn’t allows the audience a way to fully access all of that.
However that style is gorgeous to look at. It’s a genuinely beautiful film with immense amounts of style and plenty of striking imagery. The cinematography and rhythm is somewhat mesmerising and some viewers will find it absolutely absorbing. Indeed to get the most from it you need to be pulled in by its somewhat hypnotic form, as it relies on the viewer bringing their own life and thoughts to the movie, and then placing them onto the characters. It means that Futuro Beach won’t work for everyone and some will feel very much like they’re on the outside looking in at people we’re not really being told much about.
For example, it becomes clear that Donato feels as if he’s drowning from the pressures of his family and not being able to live the life he wants to life. Metaphorically Donato must choose between being saved from drowning like Konrad or being lost at sea forever if he doesn’t make some changes. However beyond setting up the metaphor it leaves all the work to the viewer, especially with a muddy third act that wants to complicate the symbolism by suggesting that perhaps the choice Donato made didn’t save him in the way he thought it would and may have actually continued a cycle of people feeling adrift. However it never gets very far with it and feels like it’s unsure what it’s doing, partly because it metaphors and its people often seem too distinct.
Both Wagner Moura and Clemens Schick are great as Donato and Konrad, bringing great subtlety and emotion to their roles, but the film itself sometimes obscures what they’re actually doing, especially as it has a tendency to miss out key moments in the story. The movie leaves the viewer to fill in the gaps, but equally leaves holes in the characters that the actors can’t quite fill. But perhaps the real issue is that while the style and beauty feel new and fresh, the story itself is nothing we haven’t seen many times before – indeed plot-wise there’s not a huge amount to it. It also tries to beef things up by pummelling us with metaphor, but it’s endless fascination with things such as land and water becomes more tiring than illuminating. That said, I do really want to visit the awesome 360o aquarium that’s briefly shown.
Overall Verdict: At times as fascinating as it is infuriating, Futuro Beach is a gay-themed film that will reward those who falls under the hypnotic spell of its intense imagery, while leaving others out in the cold.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac