A sumptuous gay love story in Brazil and Berlin, Karim Aïnouz’s Future Beach is a provocative and sensual tale of maleness, same-sex love and self-discovery.
From Here To Eternityby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Divided into three enigmatically titled chapters; The Drowned Man’s Embrace, A Hero Cut In Half and The German Speaking Ghost, Praia do Futuro is the story of three men and one. And while each chapter is devoted to one of its heroes – Konrad, Donato and Ayrton – as they navigate their way through death, loneliness and anger, it’s also just Donato’s film, as each (including himself) struggle for a piece of him. From the vivid whites, blues and reds of Brazil to Berlin’s drizzly grey winter, it’s a panorama of one man forging a new identity, as well as the joys and pain that follow in its wake. And like the wind turbines that bookmark the film, the wheels of fate unrelentingly turning, there’s an original restless energy to Karim Aïnouz’s film about displacement, disappearing into unknown lands and leaving loved ones behind.
The Drowned Man’s Embrace. Ex-soldiers Konrad (Clemens Schick) and Heiko are biking their way through Brazil. They go swimming in the waters off Praia do Futuro in Fortaleza, where despite a rescue attempt by life-guard Donato (Wagner Moura), Heiko drowns. While Konrad searches for his friend’s corpse, the two men embark on a relationship which sees Donato leave his younger brother Ayrton behind, diving across the horizon into a new continent. A Hero Cut in Half. Donato visits Konrad in Berlin, and despite the grey cold, the long hours alone and a relationship with Konrad that is at times passionate, at others fractious, he decides to stay. The German Speaking Ghost. Years later, Donato and Konrad are no longer together, but Donato is still in Berlin, working as a diver at the aquarium. It’s a relatively peaceful existence, that is until his brother Ayrton (Jesuíta Barbosa) turns up at his doorstep, furious with him for abandoning him and their mother and just vanishing into thin air.
With its high-octane opening of two men speeding across the sand dunes of Northern Brazil, Praia do Futuro is unapologetically a man’s film, shaped by the interrelating stories of its three male heroes and with barely a female in sight. It’s an all-male love story, but with its striking visuals and strong performances, it’s also a film about homosexuality at its most macho, with Wagner Moura playing a buff life-guard and Clemens Schick taking on the role of ex-soldier, speed freak and motorbike mechanic. It’s maleness at its roughest – as a simmering physicality gives way to backseat sex with neither words nor emotion. And yet, there are also unexpected moments of tenderness – a naked honesty between the two men as they lay their bodies and souls bare for each other, dancing gauchely but without inhibition.
But Future Beach is by no means just a queer film. It’s as much a film about displacement and migration, as Donato dreams of a better life beyond the horizon, where Aquaman can be true to himself – finally more than just a cartoon superhero for his brother. One of the film’s central motifs is the metaphor of diving – immersing oneself in a new identity. And it’s a submersion that finds its resolution in coming out, as Donato finally accepts his homosexuality away from the conservative, catholic constraints of Brazil. But the metamorphosis that frees him is also complicated by being so far away from home and family – as Donato is unable to combine those two worlds, or even write home to explain. So it’s no wonder that little brother Ayrton, who was left behind to look after their sick mother, arrives at the door of his once idolised older brother pretty darn angry. And while the third section isn’t as strong as the previous two halves of a broken love story, it’s integral to the three men’s intertwined stories of loss and redemption.
The three episodes culminate in the reunion of Konrad, Donato and Ayrton as they bike to the Baltic Sea – a return to the material element that reunites Brazil with Berlin, as well as past and present. And Future Beach ends with a beautifully lyrical image, as the bikes swerve round the misty bends in the road, their tail lights gleaming in the twilight. Enigmatic and beautifully photographed (by DOP Ali Olcay Gözkaya), Praia do Futuro is a thought-provoking look at maleness and silent love. Its gay romance is occasionally overplayed – with Konrad’s handlebar moustache or his lip-synced dance routine to a French chanson. But for the most part, Karim Aïnouz’s film simply refuses excesses of emotion, preferring instead to linger on his characters’ elliptical soul-searching. A patchwork of saturated colour and muted greys, it’s a sensual slide show of self-discovery and love in the fast lane.
Future Beach is released on 8th May 2015 in the UK