House of Sand

New York Premiere

Brazil | 115 MINUTES | Portuguese |



Period pieces with sweeping desert vistas and devastatingly attractive actors may bring to mind classic Hollywood drama, but for all its panoramic shots and stunning visuals, House of Sand is decidedly not a schmaltzy epic intent on glorifying love's many lonely offices. Set in the white deserts of Northern Brazil at the turn of the 20th century, Andrucha Waddington's moody meditation on nature and wild abandon follows three generations of headstrong women as they learn to accept the desert's solitude and time's punishing clock. When Aurea, a pregnant and pugnacious woman from Rio, is brought to a desert lagoon by her delusional husband, she is led to believe that the move is only temporary. But a calamitous turn of events leaves her husband dead and Aurea and her mother with only a few articles of clothing and a house full of sand. After stumbling from desert dune to desert dune, they happen upon Massu, a young black man living in what is known in Brazil as a quilombo: a self-sustaining society formed by escaped slaves. Through Massu, they find food and shelter, and over time, love. Waddington uses profound silences and close-ups of vacant, sand-whipped faces to portray a desert life that is at once frightening and beautiful in its simplicity. Although Aurea and her mother learn to love what they've carved for themselves among the lightly rippled sand dunes, Aurea's wanton daughter Maria feels otherwise. She pursues her freedom with wild abandon, creating a rupture in the quiet quilombo community. Inspired by the Kobo Abe novel The Woman in the Dunes, this evocative film explores some of life's most frustrating intangibles: time's impermanence and man's place in nature.