Do Começo ao Fim (2009)
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I can highly recommend this film. If you want action, blood, drama, sex, drugs & Rock'n'Roll - then stay away from it. Otherwise... DO TRY!
People who say it's easy to forget that Francisco and Thomás are brothers in the latter half of the movie must be TRYING to forget it, because the movie never stops affirming the fact that that's what they are. Fighting that battle while trying to enjoy a movie must detract a lot from the enjoyment.
This is a flawed but interesting and unusual movie, and I can understand why even the many positive reviews it gets have trouble describing it. It has been called a fairy tale because Francisco and Thomás seem to live in a dream world as cut off from the real world as Sleeping Beauty in her castle. But aren't all young lovers like that? Isn't that what love and hormones do to young people? Doesn't the rest of the world tend to fall away when the beloved comes into view? That's how it was when I was young.
So to say that this is a fairly tale is simply to say that it is a love story. It's an unusual love story, but fundamentally it is just like any other romance movie. If anything, its depiction of the all-consuming ecstasy of young love is MORE realistic than most movies are, not less.
Others have emphasized the parents' evident oblivion or even acquiescence to what is going on under their noses, but that seems to me like just another symptom of the irrational taboo I mentioned earlier. It's like: "What those boys are doing is WRONG! Why don't their parents stop it?" But, again, I ask: Why? Who is hurting whom? Nobody that I can see.
When they're children, they simply love each other and love to be together, and they are freely affectionate with each other. Is that bad? Why? Should the mother slap her son when he kisses his younger brother on the head or puts his arm around him or holds him while they sleep? Why? Is fighting better? Is sibling rivalry better than sibling affection? Evidently it is to many people.
Neither of those is what I see as a weakness in this movie. It's true that the movie is unreal, but what seems most unreal to me is not the brothers' relationship with each other or with their parents. That's just an extraordinarily loving and mutually accepting family, which is almost never seen in a movie or in real life but should be everybody's ideal of what a family ought to be. If that's not the unconditional love people rave about nowadays, I don't know what is.
What seems most unreal to me is the other adults' relationships with each other, the fantastically loving relationships between exes and in-laws and friends who are NOT in love with each other, who are NOT caught up in the heady ecstasy of hormones and young love. That excess of affection is just plain weird.
Another weakness I see is in the dialog. The core story about the brothers is fine it's a love story but what people say to each other is stilted and awkward, not at all the way real people talk. It's like the way people talk in TV commercials. And the problem is not just in the English subtitles, which actually are very good: what they're saying in Portuguese sounds just as phony.
And the final weakness I see is in the direction. The director seems to be trying to make something besides JUST a love story, but what that other something is never comes clear. It feels as if he is intentionally trying to make it an allegory, or an epic myth, or a ballet, or something else abstract that wrestles constantly with the extremely simple love story which the movie actually is.
The scene in which the adult brothers slowly undress for the first time as they face each other across the room is particularly strange, like something out of a kabuki performance. That obscure tension between what the movie is and what the director is trying to make it be doesn't ruin the movie, but it IS distracting.
All four actors who play the two brothers as children and then as adults are very good and very beautiful, inside and out. What the director did an EXCELLENT job of is getting straight actors (which I assume they all are) to be so convincingly loving toward each other. Every affectionate gesture, every touch, every loving look is totally convincing. That could NEVER happen in an American or Canadian movie, or even in a European movie, and I've never seen it in any other movie from Latin America. It is a unique and astonishing accomplishment.
The director also gets credit for the movie's other great accomplishment, which is simply that it got made. A movie about love, passion, unshakable devotion, loyalty, innocence, tenderness and limitless generosity between two men is rarer than hens' teeth. The scene in which they exchange wedding rings alone together at home is one of the sweetest, sexiest scenes I have ever seen. I have never seen any other movie that even comes close to the love between these two men, and I have seen hundreds and hundreds of gay movies. This is far from the best of them, but it is the most wonderful.
The story begins with a boy at the age of six who is escorted by a nurse to see his newborn brother. Immediately, the filmmaker is setting up the rules of his idyllic world. And the rules are consistent throughout. The father is nowhere to be seen. In fact, there are no adults other than an impartial nurse who leads the boy to the person who will ultimately be the love of his life.
The six year-old brother looks into his baby brother's eyes through the viewing window and a profound connection is formed. The filmmaker makes his first point. Could this mysterious thing we call love start even before birth? In most of the best love films that I've seen, and I've seen plenty, when two lovebirds meet the love of their life they have that experience of, haven't we met before? Or, I feel like I've known you all my life.
I won't go into the whole story but I was fascinated by the filmmaker's decision to leave as much conflict out of the picture as possible. He showed us hints of potential conflicts but wisely didn't emphasize them. It was a brave choice. Abranches' vision would prefer to keep the boy's perpetually in the womb of their mother. Which is another important theme throughout the story.
Abranches give us a vision of his Garden of Eden before the fall and the Great Conflict. Before Adam hid himself in the bushes when God walked the grounds and he asked Adam, why are you hiding? I'm naked. And God became angry, who told you thou wast naked? What kind of world would that be like? I can only imagine but I caught a glimpse of it up there on the big silver screen. I highly recommend From Beginning to End.
The main subject in hand, with all of it's richness and subtleties, gets pushed to the side, while some other less interesting plot takes on from half the movie onwards.
I did enjoy the film quite a bit, especially for the ease with which it talks about a very taboo subject.
Oh, and I must mention the main actors are, naturally, extremely hot.
While the topic of incest is complicated, this film is not. The director has chosen to tell the story from an unrealistic point of view that denies reality: first from parents who express little concern, to an insulated world that apparently has no schools or friends. The boys who are quite innocent express their bond in an endless display of affection and mutual protection. Their journey into adulthood is oddly told by a series of deaths in the family culminating in an erotic undressing after they are finally alone together to consume their longing. Tensions arise when the younger brother is invited to train for the Olympics in Russia for three years. The last part of the film deals with their separation (for the first time) and how each deals with the absence. In this fairy tale world, there is always a happy ending.
The adult brothers (played by athletic and model-beautiful Joao Gabriel Vasconcello and Rafael Cardoso are so ridiculously attractive that it is easy to dismiss or even remember that they are related. Director Abranches never detours from his fairy tale, letting the easy sexiness and apparent attraction of the characters make it all seem downright reasonable. This is a world where not an eyebrow is raised, as the two, seemingly oblivious to any concern for the outside world, are always physical. In only one scene, they ask a swimming trainer if their constant petting bothers him the answer is of course not. The mother, beautifully played by Júlia Lemmertz, is aware that the affections the boy have for one another seem to be suspicious but in the fairy tale world of brotherly love, mothers and fathers never comment. In, fact the mother makes a ghostly return to join the boys for a swim of the coast of Rio.
Watching FBTE, the idea of incest was almost put on the back burner because of the lack of tension and the nearly soft porn charisma of the leads. That this film is about two half brothers that are in love gets lost in the foggy haze of steamy sex and presumption on the part of the director that we can be pulled in by attractive men and a loud musical score. It could be the story of two boys growing up together, but in this instance, they are related. It is of note that on the same evening, on the Sundance channel, a film called Savage Grace, a 2007 film by Swoon director Tom Kalin, would be aired. On the completely other end of the moral spectrum, Savage Grace is difficult, painful and almost nauseating as mother and young son have intercourse. But the two films are reminders of just how complicated the subject of incest is they are not all alike. FBTE doesn't judge the subject so much as punctuate it with beautiful examples, making it a fairy tale, a poem, a love story, easy to watch, frankly erotic, but empty. The ultimate question to be asked is, it it a good film? Does it entertain, inform and enlighten? Yes, if only because we are in new territory and the characters are so free from a any burden, living in a world that can only be dreamed of.
As the movie beautifully unfolds, we explore and observe a relationships and how difficult it can be to let go of the tie that binds.
the camera work is exceptional in the way it creates such a real yet dramatized feeling. the music is unbelievably haunting - 90 minutes passed by like 10 minutes, and so naturally it does leave you with a feeling that it was too short or incomplete, but it is not. creating a conflict in such a story would have been so cliché. probably if the brothers were separated or condemned by society the viewers would have had a better time; but it would have been totally besides the point, this is a simple story of how to accept one another as human beings, regardless of who we are and how we are expected to be. no wonder the director dedicated it to his parents. it's not a fantasy, it is a beautiful portrayal of a beautiful emotion.
You won't find any other explanation for such a heart-devastating flick like this rather than your own personal feelings regarding to your own private desires. If you're into gay interest movies, don't you please, lose the chance of watching it. It is remarkably poetic and stunning. Your heart shall write the final lines for it. You'll get what I mean, once you've reached that point.
LOVE itself is represented in every little second of this movie.