‘Neighboring Sounds” unfolds like a casual nightmare in the light of day. A slice-of-life drama set in a high-rise neighborhood a few blocks off the beach in Recife, Brazil, the film follows a handful of characters about their daily business. Not much happens, yet a smog of doom hangs in the air. Distant industrial noises clang, as though the apocalypse were waiting just outside the frame. If the old surrealist Luis Bunuel were still around, he might find this jaundiced world familiar.
Instead, the writer-director is Kleber Mendonça Filho, who graduates from short films as a talent to watch. “Neighboring Sounds” opens with archival photos of Brazil’s plantation days, a rebuke of sorts to the spiritual wasteland of the main narrative. Even though the aging neighborhood senhor, Francisco (W.J. Solha), got his start in sugar cane, it’s real estate that has made him a millionaire, allowing him to sell blocks of single-family houses for conversion into airless apartment towers.