Release Date: August 11th, 2006 by Sony Pictures Classics.
The Cast: Fernanda Montenegro, Fernanda Torres, Ruy Guerra, Seu Jorge, Luiz Melodia, Enrique Diaz, Stenio Garcia, Emiliano Queiroz, Camilla Facundes.
Directed by Andrucha Waddington.
In Spanish with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: From 1910 to 1969, three generations of women struggle to survive in the sand dunes of Maranhao, Brazil.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The House of Sand opens with a long shot of the Maranhao desert in northern Brazil. As the camera zooms in closer to ground level, you notice the vast, barren landscape that stretches for miles and miles. In the first scene with dialogue, Vasco (Guerra) brings his new pregnant wife, Aurea (Torres), and mother-in-law, Dona Maria (Montenegro), into their new house which rests on soft sand with more sand all around them. After Vasco dies in an accident involving sand that crushes his home, he leaves Dona Maria alone with Aurea. Throughout the rest of the film, the two must find a way to rebuild their home and survive the rough desert landscape. With the help of a local black man, Massu (Melodia), they construct a new home on a different area of land near the ocean. Soon, Aurea gives birth to Maria (Facundes) and falls in love with Luiz (Diaz). At this point, The House of Sand feels less engaging and even confusing as Aurea yearns to have a more civilized life far away while Dona Maria prefers to stay put. 30 years later, Maria (now played by Torres) and Aurea (now played by Montenegro) both have their own lovers—Luiz returns from the war and makes love to Maria, who now turns to a wild lifestyle. Then, in the brief 1969 segment, Maria (now played by Montenegro) comes back to visit her mother after fleeing from her for a while. Much of this film moves at a leisurely pace which tends to drag a bit. Unfortunately, Screenwriter Elena Soarez doesn’t develop any of the characters enough for you to care about their fate—they don’t really come to life. On a positive note, director Andrucha Waddington does a great job of making the most of the scenery and includes some beautiful, breathtaking shots of sand gradually flowing from the dunes. Basically, the desert landscape has more personality than anyone in this film.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, none.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Undeveloped characters and a dull, slim plot that occasionally drags.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 5
IN A NUTSHELL: Picturesque cinematography, but occasionally drags with slim character and plot development.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: VHS/DVD
The "H" Menu