Bacurau is a sprawling genre hybrid, a semi-futuristic Western with a strong political undercurrent. The eponymous village, located in a remote part of Eastern Pernambuco – far from civilization and difficult to access – is home to generations of outlaws, who live there in relative harmony. This, however, is soon disturbed when Bacurau quite literally disappears from the maps, and targeted killings begin. Carried out by a group of white Americans, this is a government-sanctified hunt on the people of Bacurau (a clear allegory to the current state of Brazil), which leads up to a finale so bloody it could make Tarantino jealous. The stunning cinematography by Pedro Sotero, however, ensures that the film remains aesthetically pleasing, even as it grows increasingly violent.
In complete opposition to his previous film Aquarius (2016) – an extraordinarily intimate and detailed character study of Sônia Braga’s Clara – writer-director Kleber Mendonça Filho, this time sharing the credit with longtime collaborator Juliano Dornelles, now sets up a large ensemble cast, which at times seems lost among all the action.
This is the film’s biggest weakness: without the chance to form emotional ties to any of the characters, the stakes remain low, even when heads start rolling – perhaps more so for a non-Brazilian audience. There are standout performances by Braga, returning here as the unhinged village doctor Domingas, and Udo Kier, who makes a terrifying villain. But these roles – just as the rest of the ensemble – can never develop fully, despite a runtime of 131 minutes.
As such, the film is at times rather uneven and can be challenging to watch. With a setup as large as this, Bacurau would have benefitted from the more generous space of a (mini-)series in order to explore the nuances of this highly ambitious concept more fully.
CAST: Bárbara Colen, Thomás Aquino, Udo Kier, Sônia Braga
DIRECTORS: Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles
WRITERS: Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles
SYNOPSIS: Bacurau is a dystopian thriller which deals with current areas of conflict in a deeply divided Brazilian society and paints a picture that, though surreal, is painfully close to reality.