Monday, March 29, 2010

From Beginning to End

The eighth and final film in Melbourne Queer Film Festival that I attended was the Brazilian From Beginning to End, a lyrical meditation on love.

The Festival blurb for the film said:
One of the most controversial films in this year’s Festival, causing a stir in its native Brazil, is From Beginning To End, a drama that delves into a passionate relationship between two brothers. Francisco is five when his brother, Thomás, is born. They share the same mother, Julieta, but different fathers. From the start the boys are close, and always show affection for each other – constantly hugging and even falling asleep in each others’ arms. When the boys take a trip to Buenos Aires to visit Francisco’s father, Pedro, the Argentinean disapproves of the boys’ behaviour, insisting to their mother that the boys are ‘too intimate’. But Julieta pays no heed to her former husband’s warning. Fifteen years later, on the night of Julieta’s funeral, the brothers’ affections for each other are taken to an overtly sexual level. When Thomás is invited to Russia for 3 years to train for the Olympic swimming team, the brothers must make a tough decision – stay together for love, or part to enable Thomás to take up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Bold in its theme, this melodrama is not afraid to tackle an issue few films face. However, this is not a gritty, low-rent, morality tale; the sun is forever shining, everyone thrives in a wealthy lifestyle, and the adult brothers are pin-up worthy gorgeous. Unashamedly romantic, and, like its two protagonists, unafraid of the consequences, From Beginning To End is bound to be one of this year’s talking points.
One of the things I very much enjoyed about the film is that family life was presented as being able to be a place of love. Not of anodyne harmony, but a place of genuine love, affection and acceptance.

Julieta is a doctor who was married to Pedro (who lives in Argentina) and is now married to the painter Alexandre. The divorce with Pedro was amicable: they still like each other while Alexandre treats both boys as his sons.

It is clear that Julieta spreads love, but both her husbands—particularly Alexandre—have learnt from her. The film gently builds up our picture of the family, spending quite a bit of time on the brother’s boyhood. Which means that we completely get Alexandre and the brother’s grief at Julieta’s funeral.

Although the film regularly offers possibilities, there is not much plot: but that is not the point. The film is about love, focusing on the relationship between the two brothers. A love that is real but also raises gently the question of whether it is too powerful, too strong. While the younger brother, Tomas, is the narrator the older brother Francisco is the centre of the emotional angst in the later part of the film.

The film has some deeply erotic moments—indeed, some of the most erotic moments I have seen in cinema. Even though it is clear the relationship is erotic, it is left open just how sexual the relationship between the two brothers is.

From Beginning to End is gentle, lush, erotic and good-natured. I enjoyed the film a great deal.

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