‘Behind the Sun’: This Romance Drama Beautifully Balances Love and Duty

The eternal conflict between following familial duty or pursuing one’s own desires has inspired countless tales throughout history, from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to more modern classics like ‘Ratatouille’. It’s a universal dilemma that resonates deeply whenever we face the choice between conformity and forging our own path in life, particularly when one option seems to lead to a certain tragedy.

In the film ‘Behind the Sun’ (2001), directed by Walter Salles, this timeless theme takes centre stage in the arid Brazilian sertão of the early 20th century. Based on Ismail Kadare’s novel ‘Broken April,’ the story pivots around Tonho (played by Rodrigo Santoro), whose family is entangled in a deadly, generations-long feud with the Ferreira clan. Amidst this backdrop of senseless violence and obligation, Tonho encounters Clara (Flávia Marco Antônio), a circus performer, who offers him a chance at a different life.

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Behind the Sun
Image Courtesy: IMDb

The film, praised for its stunning cinematography by Walter Carvalho, juxtaposes the harsh realities of rural Brazil with the fleeting beauty of Tonho and Clara’s budding romance. Directed by Walter Salles, known for his Oscar-nominated work on ‘Central Station,’ ‘Behind the Sun’ explores themes of duty, love, and the struggle for personal freedom amidst oppressive traditions. It’s a tale that remains poignant even decades after its release.

‘Behind the Sun’  not only delves into the personal conflict faced by its characters but also critiques the cycle of violence and obligation that perpetuates within communities. Through Tonho’s journey, viewers are confronted with profound questions about fate, duty, and the possibility of breaking free from predetermined paths.

Behind the Sun
Image Courtesy: Prime Video

Salles, together with co-screenwriters Karim Aïnouz and Sérgio Machado, crafts a narrative that navigates the complexities of human relationships and societal expectations, resonating deeply with audiences as it explores the consequences of choice and the inevitability of mortality.

Rodrigo Santoro’s portrayal of Tonho anchors the film with emotional depth, portraying a young man torn between loyalty to his family and the desire to carve out a future of his own choosing. ‘Behind the Sun’  garnered acclaim at international festivals, showcasing Brazil’s rich cinematic tradition and its ability to blend poignant storytelling with visually captivating landscapes.

–Farheen Ali