The Enduring Sands of Time

Camilla Facundes, left, and Fernanda Montenegro in the desolate outback of Brazil in
Camilla Facundes, left, and Fernanda Montenegro in the desolate outback of Brazil in "The House of Sand." (By Vanteon Pereira Jr. -- Sony Pictures Classics)
Friday, September 15, 2006

The Old Testament by way of Gabriel Garcia Marquez might be one way to start to describe "The House of Sand," an otherworldly cinematic journey that has been less directed than conjured by director Andrucha Waddington. (See Film Notes on Page 48.)

The multigenerational story of a mother and daughter who settle in the desert outback of northern Brazil in 1910, "The House of Sand" unfolds in a kind of brutal, gorgeous dreamscape as Maria (Fernanda Montenegro) and daughter Aurea (Fernanda Torres) arrive in a Godforsaken corner of nowhere with Aurea's delirious husband. Soon, the two women are left alone in the barren landscape, whose bone-like whiteness is interrupted only by the freshwater lagoons that are created after torrential rains.

"The House of Sand" follows the women's lives through the 1960s, during which time they befriend a local fisherman named Massu (Seu Jorge, best known as the Bowie-singing troubadour from "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou"). Visually dazzling, epic in its sweep and deeply romantic in its sensibility, "The House of Sand" is one of those films whose images and ideas linger long after the lights come on, having been burned into the viewer's consciousness. The two Fernandas possess two of the greatest screen faces alive and play off each other with sublime ease and grace.

-- Ann Hornaday

The House of Sand R, 115 minutes Contains some graphic sexuality. In Portuguese with subtitles. At Cinema Arts Theatre and the Avalon.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company