Following its Jury Prize win at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Bacurau has started to grow a decent following, and it’s easy to see why: a fever dream that’s often violent and imbued with the blackest comedy, it’s a wildly ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable satire on Brazilian politics.
The less known about the plot, the better; for those curious, the story revolves around a small village named Bacurau in Brazil that experiences strange goings-on following the death of their matriarch. This synopsis is the barest of bones for what turns out to be the main crux of the story; however, the film is in no hurry to get there, and instead focuses on exploring the eccentric cast of characters.
And what a bunch they are. The tight-knit community of Bacurau is the key to making the entire film work, and the cast has chemistry in spades, and if it were to be revealed that the village and its inhabitants were lifted from reality, this would be completely plausible — such is the way they interact with one another. Sônia Braga as the village doctor, Domingas, is striking — particularly in the way in which she in introduced — but the collective of characters is how the film really captivates.
As more of Bacurau unfolds and we take a brief detour from the village, the pace does slow slightly as the necessary unveilings begin to take place. However, moments away from the core group are smartly kept to a minimum. Secondary characters led by Michael (Udo Kier) are played far more overtly — close to scenery-chewing — but are restrained enough to not stick out like a sore thumb.
In fact, directors Kieber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles consistently manage to keep things in check throughout, as at moments Bacurau threatens to get out of hand, whether it be via a wandering narrative or Kier’s line delivery. And whilst surreal, the film treads a fine line without dipping into absurd.
The message is loud and clear, and its methods in reaching a conclusion are violently entertaining, but Bacurau’s most successful aspect is its tight narrative. The surreal, combined with its gorier aspects, makes it destined for cult status.