The Other Side Of Copacabana

in 54th Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival

by Carlos Augusto Brandão

Marcos Bernstein remembers quite well when he was at Berlinale ’98 with Walter Salles’ Central Station, of which he was the co-writer, together with João Emanuel Carneiro.

That year, for the general joy of all film-loving Brazilians, Central Station took home the Golden Bear and Fernanda Montenegro received the Silver Bear of best actress, for her strong performance as the scrawler Dora.

Now, in 2004, both were in Berlin again; he, as the rookie director of the feature The Other Side of the Street (O Outro Lado da Rua), and she as the most important name in the cast.

The film was shown in the Special Panorama, gathering a full house at the Zoo Palast. After the success of Central Station and her nomination for the Oscar, one can say that Fernanda not only has a public in the Berlinale, but also that her simple presence in the cast of a movie represents by itself a factor of attraction. In Bernstein’s flick, she interprets Regina, a retired woman that strolls around Copacabana with her small dog and passes information to the police, sure that her actions will help to improve life in the neighborhood.

“It’s a film that talks about feelings and human loneliness”, says Bernstein, adding that he decided on that location because he needed a quarter that represented so many others in big cities of the world, both crowded and chaotic.

Bernstein also cast Laura Cardoso, an excellent actress, as Regina’s friend and also an informer, but always skeptical about the real results of their ‘good actions’, and Raul Cortez, a Brazilian favorite of television soap operas, as a retired judge. (Copacabana is known as a place where most middle class people chose to live after retiring, the equivalent of the USA’s Miami Beach).

One day, Regina sees, or thinks that she sees, the judge killing his wife. After that, both will be facing a situation that is a mixture of genres. “I chose to run some risks and put together doses of mystery, humor, romance and drama”, says Bernstein.

The story has as a reference to the work of Edward Hopper, the great American painter of lonely people. “I wanted to show a Copacabana that was different from that colorful, tropical and bright beach. As in Hopper’s paintings, sometimes it is cold and dark”, says the helmer. The cinematography of Toca Seabra and the art direction of Bia Junqueira go straight to that goal, and their work found the right mood in the lighting and scenario. The result helped to create the noir atmosphere that emphasized the loneliness and the anguish of the characters.

Truly, the film was able to capture, in part, the strange universe of Hopper, with its lone and frozen figures in heavy compositions and hard light contrasts.

Bernstein’s first feature is another example of recent Brazilian work that tries to put the emphasis on the urban middle class, instead of stories about the marginalized part of the country’s population, most of the time victims of violence and exploitation.