There's no doubt Fernanda Montenegro is one of the best actresses in the world, and it was close to criminal that Gwynneth Paltrow received an Oscar for her so-so performance in "SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE" over Montenegro's in "CENTRAL STATION". But, at least she's still working and her latest film, "HOUSE OF SAND", in spite of various flaws, allows viewers to be taken in by the magic of her acting again.
Director Andrucha Waddington has created one breathtaking image after another in this epic. The plot revolves around Aurea, a beaitiful, young, pregnant woman, finding herself in desperate isolation with her mother, after moving to a desert area in Northern Brazil. In 1910, her delusional, self-destructive husband is convinced this barren land they've moved to will bring them paradise. Unfortunately, in spite of Aurea's dreams of leaving this barren wasteland, she never seems to be able to. When her husband dies, the ladies are left to fend for themselves, at least for a while. Aurea never believed she could travel the dangerous landscape alongside her elderly mother to find a way back to the civilization she left behind. The mother and daughter end up finding some sense of life in the dunes. But, when the strong and determined daughter she's given birth to, grows up, the quest to find a new world made anew. There are many great moments in "THE HOUSE OF SAND", and the basic plot leaves open the potential for great surprises. Unfortunately, there are very few surprises and what's left are fine performances that are land-locked figuratively and literally within the limitations of the script. It's hard after nearly two hours, for the viewer not to feel trapped as well.
SONY has presented the film in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. Colors are solid throughout. This is a great looking disc! The production design is inherently challenging for bright colors, especially with the gray, dreary environment in many scenes. But, colors are impressive and life-like. The detail is outstanding, and when the story falters, the images do grab hold of the viewer. Contrast is impressive. Deep blacks and grays provide an impressive image in darker moments.
SONY has provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. While not aggressive, in an "action" sense, the surrounds are utilized continuously for atmosphere. Fidelity is excellent and the front soundstage is often expansive. Dialogue is always intelligible and free from distortion. The yellow subtitles are perfectly readable in every scene, albeit dialogue is sparse for large sections.
SONY has included a "making of" featurette, offering insight into the filmmaker's challenges.