Poorly titled in English. Google translates the Portuguese title, O Som ao Redor, as “The Sound Around.” That or “The Sounds Around” would have been better. “Neighborhood Sounds” or “The Sounds of a Neighborhood”, while not literal, would have worked, because the film is about one one-block-long middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhood in the city of Recife. Maybe just “Listening”.
Filho’s model is Michael Haneke. I didn’t see Haneke mentioned as an influence in the couple of pieces I read about the film, but his presence is obvious. The film’s pacing, its linear array of everyday domestic scenes, each touched, to some degree, by the outré, banality permeated by mystery and ominousness (which other people who wrote about the film seemed to have sensed more clearly than I), all echo Haneke. A good first film.
(It is not, like some first films – at least one, Stranger than Paradise – so wonderful that the director is never able to do anything as good again. Some first novels are like that. It is where the strange phenomenon of beginner’s luck becomes profound and tragic.)
If you like Haneke’s films, then see Neighboring Sounds. It’s available on Hulu. One flaw (which really isn’t one as far as the viewer is concerned, but only when it comes to Filho’s agenda) is that the overarching main story is eclipsed by a secondary tragic-comic (weighted on the comic side) character and her story. It’s as if The Magic Flute came off as the story of Papagena and Papageno.)