The World Ends | O fim do Mundo (2019) **** Locarno Film Festival 2019

August 14th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Basil da Cunha | Crime drama | Portugal 107′

Basil da Cunha is back with a woozily haunting realist revenge drama of Lisbon low-lifes in the badass backwaters of Reboleira. What starts as a roaming review of this close-knit community made up of a cast of locals and non-actors, gradually gets under the skin of its despicable central character Spira. Recently released from a remand home with a string of crimes ‘as long as your arm’, he has gone back to the house he shares with his father’s girlfriend. The area is being bulldozed, and the locals are slowly losing their ramshackle homes in the hope of being re-housed by money from the EU. But they still desperately hold on to their old possessions (even lavatories and toasters). And once darkness falls they continue to rant and rage with each other while partying and drinking the night away.

Although da Cunha has upper his game since 2013, once again, we are back in After the Night territory, musing over the rights and wrongs of this Creole slum – the women desperately trying to keep the families together while the men have the upper hand and often resort to petty crime to make a living. And da Cunha lays the blame on government cut-backs – and they are clearly not pulling their weight as far as public services are concerned – but that does not mean people should break the law according to Spira’s flirty step-mother who is keen to keep him on the straight and narrow with her ‘crime doesn’t pay’ diatribe – but she’s gradually losing the battle. Spira sees himself as head of the household despite being only 18 and incapable of even fetching her two young children from school. To make matters worse he has no time to make an honest living, he’s too busy hanging with his friends Chandi and drug-dealing Giovani.

Gradually a sketchy plot emerges from the party-fuelled storyline: Spira’s arch rival and gang-leader Kikas is far from pleased to see him back in the ‘hood, particularly since Spira has torched his car, for no apparent reason other than boredom. So Kikas wacks him over the head with some piping demanding he pay for his misdemeanour, but Spira has other ideas. Meanwhile, he’s falling in love with another lost soul in the shape of teenage mother Lara (Lara Cristina Cardoso).

Da Cunha and his Dop Rui Xavier create alluring images amid the pitiful slums of this squalid part of Portugal’s capital city where the glittering nightscapes seem magical in contrast with the poverty. A sombre organ score often elevates this drama despite its sordid subject-matter. Even the affair between Spira and Lara resonates with a palpable chemistry. Their love is a thing of beauty, like a diamond in the dust. But despite this often mesmerising makeover, you just can’t like these people. MT




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