Outfest came to an end yesterday with a 2nd screening of the Brazilian film, From Beginning to End. Directed by Aluízio Abranches, the film revolves around the relationship between two young half brothers whose intense childhood bond eventually leads to a sexual relationship. Told as a fairy tale romance, FBTE skirts the issue of incest by simply showing parents with concerned frowns and while an overwrought musical score plays not so much in the background.
While the topic of incest is complicated, this film is not. The director has chosen to tell the story from an unrealistic point of view that denies reality: first from parents who express little concern, to an insulated world that apparently has no schools or friends. The boys who are quite innocent express their bond in an endless display of affection and mutual protection. Their journey into adulthood is oddly told by a series of deaths in the family culminating in an erotic undressing after they are finally alone together to consume their longing. Tensions arise when the younger brother is invited to train for the Olympics in Russia for three years. The last part of the film deals with their separation (for the first time) and how each deals with the absence. In this fairy tale world, there is always a happy ending.
The adult brothers (played by athletic and model-beautiful Joao Gabriel Vasconcello and Rafael Cardoso are so ridiculously attractive that it is easy to dismiss or even remember that they are related. Director Abranches never detours from his fairy tale, letting the easy sexiness and apparent attraction of the characters make it all seem downright reasonable. This is a world where not an eyebrow is raised, as the two, seemingly oblivious to any concern for the outside world, are always physical. In only one scene, they ask a swimming trainer if their constant petting bothers him— the answer is of course not. The mother, beautifully played by Júlia Lemmertz, is aware that the affections the boy have for one another seem to be suspicious but in the fairy tale world of brotherly love, mothers and fathers never comment. In, fact the mother makes a ghostly return to join the boys for a swim of the coast of Rio.
Watching FBTE, the idea of incest was almost put on the backburner because of the lack of tension and the nearly soft porn charisma of the leads. That this film is about two half brothers that are in love gets lost in the foggy haze of steamy sex and presumption on the part of the director that we can be pulled in by attractive men and a loud musical score. It could be the story of two boys growing up together, but in this instance, they are related. It is of note that on the same evening, on the Sundance channel, a film called Savage Grace, a 2007 film by Swoon director Tom Kalin, would be aired. On the completely other end of the moral spectrum, Savage Grace is difficult, painful and almost nauseating as mother and young son have intercourse. But the two films are reminders of just how complicated the subject of incest is…they are not all alike. FBTE doesn’t judge the subject so much as punctuate it with beautiful examples, making it a fairy tale, a poem, a love story, easy to watch, frankly erotic, but empty.