The House of Sand Andrucha Waddington

A meditation on life in relativity, The House of Sand chronicles three generations of mother and daughter whom fate has deposited in what must be one of the world’s least habitable corners, the Lençóis desert of Marañhao province in northern Brazil.

In 1910, the pregnant Áurea and her mother Dona Maria (played by real life daughter-mother team Fernanda Torres and Fernanda Montenegro) arrive by a caravan led by Áurea’s lunatic husband to the scraggly lagoon that is to be their new home. The husband promptly dies and the servants run off, leaving the women to shift for themselves in an ocean of sand.

Themes of isolation, the cycles of time and the continuity of mother and daughter are given the most literal treatment. Sand eventually buries the house and Dona Maria with it, but as the film fast-forwards by 20, 30 and 50 years, Montenegro returns to play the daughter grown old, while the granddaughter grown up is played by Torres.

The relentless aridity of the film’s emotional landscape is reflected in the sparse dialogue and casting, but the film is saved from total meat-fistedness by the presence of Academy Award-nominee Montenegro (Central Station). At 76 years old, this wonderful actor’s deep, luminous eyes show life brimming even in the most parched of metaphors. (Mongrel Media)