The languid, lateral black-and-white shots and repetitive background sounds of Eduardo Nunes' feature debut Southwest inevitably evokes memories of the work of Béla Tarr. But where Tarr used that style to break open reality, Nunes (b. 1969) chooses a more magical approach with this Brazilian parable about a woman who passes through her life in one day.
It is immediately obvious from the title that Southwest enters the domain of the fantastic, because the southwest of Brazil doesn’t exist - at least not officially. It’s an area beyond the frontiers of the visible. Most characters experience the day that is coming just like every other, even though the young, pregnant Clarice dies in the early morning in an inn. In the hours that follow, another Clarice appears: first as a baby, then as a little girl, then as a teenager and finally as an adult woman. Under the scorching sun, she changes from one character to another.
The contrast between these radical changes and the slow tempo makes the viewer search for a handhold. Nunes, who won several prizes with his short films, uses this dreamy yet also painful and tragic narrative to point to Christian and magical stories. But in the end, there is no clear logic; only the puzzle of time and life.