This is a mysterious ethno-fictional fable of the indigenous Krahô people in north-eastern Brazil; it was a prizewinner at Cannes last year for Brazilian-born Renée Nader Messora, who has been researching and working with the Krahô peoples for over a decade, and Portuguese co-director João Salaviza. They use non-professionals and shape their devised fictions around real situations; the result is something shimmeringly strange.
Ihjãc (Henrique Ihjãc Krahô, effectively playing himself) is deeply disturbed by unresolved feelings about the death of his father. Troubled by a dream, he comes to a moonlit waterfall in the jungle where he hears his father’s voice, calmly and conversationally rebuking him for having failed to carry out all the funeral rituals that would allow him to depart for the next life. It is a strange and beautiful scene. Rightly or not, I found myself thinking of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, especially when these requirements are finally arranged toward the film’s end, and they include “funeral baked meats”.
Ihjãc has what conventional medicine might call an emotional breakdown; he is very ill and is convinced that he is being forced to become a shaman, under the control of a macaw. He goes into the nearest town for treatment and, to the dismay of his wife and child, is reluctant to leave the cottage hospital or “support house”. When he does so, the cathartic ceremony does not require the congregants to remember the departed – but it passionately tells them to forget him: “The time of remembering is gone. Think about the living!”
The scene utterly cuts across the pieties that you might expect from any other kind of drama. A very intriguing film, gentle, quietist, transcendental.
• The Dead and the Others is available on Mubi from 23 June.
Source: The Guardian