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Wolf at the Door, A
A young girl, vanished after getting picked up from a day care center by a mystery woman, serves as the catalyst for the simmering drama A Wolf at the Door. The mess resulting from a seemingly normal family coming apart propels this solid effort from first-time Brazilian writer-director Fernando Coimbra. Flawed to some degree, this film is assuredly worth checking out for fans of intense foreign-language drama. Strand Releasing's DVD offers a nice looking, spartan home video edition.
A Wolf at the Door frantically begins with a typical Rio de Janeiro suburbanite, Sylvia (Fabiula Nascimento), arriving to pick up her daughter from the local day care. Sylvia finds that the girl was already picked up, however, by a stranger whom the young girl apparently knew. The distraught Sylvia rushes to the police, who question her and her bus inspector husband, Bernardo (Milhem Cortez). The investigation forces Bernardo to confess that he's been carrying on an affair with an impetuous 25-year-old, Rosa (Leandra Leal). When Rosa comes in for questioning, she confesses to the crime and assures the police that the child is fine - pleading that she's not as guilty as she appears. Flashbacks to Rosa and Bernardo's turbulent affair - and the way she wormed herself into Sylvia's life - tell a different story, however.
A Wolf at the Door is the screaming baby of film noir and telenova, left out to wither and die in the hot Brazilian sun. As the story unfolds, one gets a sense of the characters being trapped by their fates - macho man Bernado, madonna Sylvia, whore Rosa - trying desperately to get out. At their initial meeting on a train platform, Bernardi pounces on Rosa. When their relationship heats up, however, he becomes aware of her manipulative ways (most damaging, lying about being on the pill so she can have his baby). Meanwhile, Rosa becomes friendly with Sylvia and the couple's daughter, Clara, without Bernardo's knowledge. Eventually, it's revealed that Rosa planned Clara's abduction to appear as if it was an act of revenge taken on by a jealous neighbor of the couple's. From there, things turn ever more sick and twisted.
In demonstrating how a flirty extramarital fling can turn deadly, A Wolf at the Door has gotten plenty of comparisons with Fatal Attraction. Indeed, there are times when the torrid dramatics reach a level of hysteria like that 1987 blockbuster, although the film itself is a more intimate, complex affair. In the end, it makes a rather damning statement about the results of a preening, alpha-male-dominated culture in Brazil. Director Coimbra uses a narrative that shifts around in time, a la another movie I recently reviewed here, Hidden Away. As with that Spanish drama, the shifting narrative in A Wolf at the Door is used mostly for cosmetic reasons. Here, it establishes the fact that Rosa wasn't nearly as innocent as she initially appeared in the police station. As with Hidden Away, the story likely would have had more bite had it been done in a straightforward way. Despite that, the film ends up being the memorable, gut-wrenching statement it was intended to be.
Strand Releasing's DVD edition of A Wolf at the Door sports a solid transfer in 2.35:1 widescreen. The documentary-like photography has a suitably gritty texture, with several sequences given a jaundiced yellow cast. Detail is kept pretty sharp, while the colors are kept at a pleasant saturation level. Although the mastering job gives the dark levels perhaps too much murk, the disc came out looking fine.
The movie's Portuguese-language soundtrack is given a clean 5.1 Surround mix, with optional English subtitles as the default playing option. For a dialogue-driven film like this, the mix does an adequate job of keeping the voices comprehensible while tucking the ambient sounds away in the background. If Surround is used, it's very subtle. French and Spanish subtitle tracks are also provided.
The discs sole bonus material is the film's Theatrical Trailer, along with a few previews for other Strand releases such as Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed.
A Brazilian Fatal Attraction minus Adrian Lyne's camp sensibilities, that's what A Wolf at the Door is. Director Fernando Coimbra needlessly employs a shifting-narrative technique in this otherwise meaty, tense foreign-language drama of marital infidelity and tragic crimes. This is one of those interestingly done, intimate films where the setting (a bustling, junky Brazilian suburb) is as much a key component as the characters and plot. Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and jack-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 2000, he has been blogging at Scrubbles.net. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's experienced are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.