‘The House of Sand’


Set in the Maranhão desert of northern Brazil and spanning six decades (from 1910), Andrucha Waddington’s admirably pretentious epic of woman in nature makes the rare attempt to impart a purely visual experience: Sensual shots of gargantuan sand dunes appear at least as important in storytelling terms as the faces of three women—mother, daughter, and granddaughter (Fernanda Montenegro plays all three in old age)—who are forced to traverse this barren landscape in search of somewhere to settle. Waddington, a veteran of 200 TV commercials (and the ho-hum Me You Them), delivers no shortage of trailer-ready images (major elements include sun, sky, wind, rain, and hair), which in succession do become hypnotic. The movie naturally works best without dialogue, although the presence of one or two men in Waddington’s forbidding landscape compels some verbal foreplay en route to the universal language of softcore. The current scarcity of art-house cinema that favors poeticism over plausibility works to the great advantage of a film that’s old-fashioned even in its thematic concerns, including what it means to come and go when one’s house is not a home, but the earth itself.