The latest feature by Brazilian veteran Karim Ainouz tells the story of Donato, a lifeguard from the Brazilian Northeastern city of Fortaleza who moves to Berlin in order to live with his lover Konrad. They met while Donato was working and rescued the drowning German from the violent waters of the beach in the film title.
In Futuro Beach, immigration to Europe has tragic consequences for Donato, but not because he is an illegal alien (in fact, the film never delves with his immigration status and journey to Europe) nor because he fails to adapt to the new culture. After a few years in Berlin, Donato speaks fluent German and is fully settled in his new home. Unlike in the Brazilian classic Foreign Land (Walter Salles/ Daniela Thomas, 1996), longing is not a central theme in the film.
Neither are homosexuality and homophobia. The gay romance is a secondary theme, and always treated with naturalism. The love scenes are uncontrived and powerful. Futuro Beach is not a militant gay film – and this came as a disappointment to many liberal activists because gay rights is such a hot topic in Brazil right now. It also a sharp move away from the gay, camp and passionate Madame Satã – the story of a very dysfunctional and subversive gay artist – which Ainouz directed in 2002.
The central theme of Futuro Beach is violent rupture. After failing to return to Brazil (in what was intended to be a short trip to Germany), Donato never attempts to contact his family again. At first he does not want to stay in Germany, but then he decides to cut all links with Brazil. He made the dirty decision to abandon and deny his family in Brazil because he is unable to reconcile his split allegiances.
In last third of the film, Donato’s younger brother Ayrton travels to Berlin as an adult in order to find the brother who abandoned his family years earlier, when he was still a child. Ayrton has even learnt some German before travelling to the German capital, lest his older brother could no longer speak any Portuguese. He is very angry upon finding his eloping brother, who did not even know that their mother died about an year earlier.
Futuro Beach is a slow-paced film with strong visuals and a sparse dialogue, a skillfully-crafted lyrical commentary on immigration, sexuality, life and death. The characters and the narrative feel stoic in nature, in a manner more akin to European (the likes of Bergman and Rohmer) than to Brazilian cinema (more used to fast-paced films and epic emotions).
The story is also full of symbolisms. Water both unites and separates: it takes away the life of Konrad’s friend Heiko in the opening of the film (in an unspecified accident where Konrad is saved by Donato), but it also separates Europe from Brazil. Donato at first misses the ocean in Berlin, and at the end of the movie he makes peace with his brother in the sands of a retiring sea in what seems to be the north of Germany. Water is always present in Donato’s work: first as a lifeguard (in Brazil), then in an aquarium and finally in a public bath (in Germany). Donato’s and allegiances and work relations feel as fluid as water.
The beach in the end of the film is very cold, windy, grey and populated with images of blackbirds, in sharp contrast to Futuro Beach in Fortaleza. The chosen home of the immigrant looks like a bleak and distorted version of his homeland. Yet this is where reconciliation between Donato and his younger brother Ayrton occurs. Futuro Beach is a eulogy of love and the difficult decisions that an immigrant has to make.
Futuro Beach premiered in the UK and most of Europe in 2015 and it was selected as one of “the dirtiest Brazilian films of the past 10 years”.