The Brazilian film Bacurau, at once a pulsating thriller, a mood piece and a sharp political critique, is two films stitched together – a deliciously atmospheric and slow-burning neo-Western in the first half, and a hyper-violent, campy invasion / revenge flick in the second. Consequently, its echoing and subversion of generic conventions accentuated the filmmakers’ outrage against neofascism. The opening scenes, where a woman and guy drive in a ramshackle water truck towards the titular, godforsaken outpost village – a small, arid, closely-knit community – in order to attend the funeral of a much loved matriarch, while discussing about a rebel who’s taken up arms against the local government, set the context for what followed. The opening half was made exquisitely gripping by the deliberate pacing, portrayal of the weather beaten residents – where doctors (Sônia Braga) and teachers live at par with pimps and prostitutes, with a common disdain for the unctuous local politician –, and a beautifully elegiac tone – established through moments of silence, mournful funeral processions, slow guitar strummings, haunting folk songs and a stirring sense of impending doom. Things start taking an eerie downturn, however, when their village is suddenly erased from the map, all mobile signals get jammed, the water tank gets punctured by bullets and a bunch of ranchers get brutally massacred. And then, in a gleefully lurid turn, a bunch of vicious bounty hunters, led by a racist, arrogant and psychotic leader (Udo Kier) take siege of the village, with the intent to kill for fun. The filmmakers, interestingly, deployed a number of flamboyant stylistic choices, from zooms and wipes to split screens and campy electronic scores, which counterpointed the sense of realism.
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles