Recent European films like Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac and Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake have drawn on the visual vocabulary of porn to make sex look like a chore only the compulsive would bother engaging in.
While keeping things softcore, Karim Ainouz’s Brazilian/German co-production misses no opportunity to have his actors take their clothes off — it helps that much of the film is set around water — and creates something genuinely erotic. The film begins with the drowning of a German motorbike racer on the Brazilian beach of the title. Lifeguard Donato (Wagner Moura) feels guilty, but also finds himself attracted to the dead man’s friend Konrad (Clemens Schick). Donato winds up following Konrad to Berlin and moving in with him, regretfully leaving behind an ailing mother and brother who depend on him.
Eight years later, that angry brother comes to Germany in search of some sort of reckoning. Futuro Beach is as strong on texture as narrative. It’s full of sensual images like a man in a diving suit cleaning an aquarium tank from the inside, as fish swim around him. Cinematographer Ali Olcay Gözkaya captures the essences of both Brazil’s sunny beaches and Berlin’s winters.
The film suggests how these affect the characters’ moods without simply portraying the former as beautiful and the latter as alienating: Futuro Beach is so salty that the air around it is highly corrosive and acidic. Ainouz’s earlier films were campier and more rooted in his native Brazil’s gay culture; Futuro Beach reflects the sensibility of a man who’s traveled the globe and lived around the world.