This short film opens with: a few seconds of black frame; underneath the black the sound of a bus pulling up, stopping, and moving off. Cuts to: A boy running to catch the bus but missing it, late in a large city in Brazil. Eventually he’s glad that he wasn’t quite fast enough.
The nightime streets of an unknown city feature as the exclusive setting for De terça pra quarta. As foreigners coming into this viewing cold we would not know the exact location but I did some searching and discovered it was shot in Fortaleza, the 10th-largest city in Brazil at 2.5 million people. The film’s last frame also names the city and date of production: FORTALEZA 2015.
Brazilians and others who live in Brazil might recognize it right away, of course, as Brazilian and not say, estadounidense or French. But anyone who has ever been on the streets of a modern city at night, lit by those awful sodium lights with shades of sickly yellow-green, would recognize the look in a general way. The film keeps us on those streets, lit by that light, for its entire length, and that sameness helps keep our heads in a particular place.
It’s not the case with all movies, of course, but in general many of the movies I value most locate themselves somewhere that feels true — or that trues a feeling — even if that idea of “place” can be a temporary one, or one that creates a concept of place constructed inside a character’s head.
Off the top of my head and from a film I revisited recently, think of how the teen characters in The Breakfast Club transform their school generally and a library detention session specifically into a site for rebellion and unexpected connections. This interior, symbolic transformation changes their exterior relationships. The change in the characters’ personal concepts of place, of belonging, in themselves, aspires for something utopian.
Just before I began writing about this easy-to-like gay-themed short from Brazil, I watched William Wyler’s The Big Country. Contained in its title and gracefully emphasized in nearly every frame, this 1958 Hollywood Western stars the California landscape as much as it does Gregory Peck and Jean Simmons, maybe even creating a more lasting impact than the stars themselves.
In a penultimate fight scene between Peck’s character McKay and Charlton Heston’s character Leech, the vastness of the natural world points out the futility and vanity of their human-male struggles and rivalries, the scene shot as it is quite a distance from the action.
More than the look, however, the feel of the empty streets in De terça pra quarta evokes a sense of breaking the rules, of being outside the normal flow of daytime activities. In this flow, under these lights, on those streets, anything can happen, or anyone.
The characters walk in the middle of the street, with few vehicles or humans in sight outside of the cast, which in the case of De terça pra quarta is a group of mixed gender, early-20-somethings wheat-pasting posters for a university play called Vagabundos.
(An end credit thanks the people involved with Vagabundos for “significantly contributing” to the film. I couldn’t find online any information about the play but since the English translation for the word is exactly what you’d expect, we can assume some similarities. I like the secondary definition that Wiktionary provides: a person on a trip of indeterminate destination and/or length of time.)
Sometimes the characters appear together, sometimes alone, sometimes paired off, but all, when moving, are often shot from behind in varying perpendicular distances from the camera. Everything in-frame is more or less in focus. I’ve mentioned this style of framing and shooting a few times.
Most of the film’s shots are long shots or medium-long shots, although the most significant images are medium shots that cut to close-ups of the film’s main couple, the boy who missed the bus (whose name I couldn’t determine since there are two unnamed male characters in the film), and Renan, the shaggy-haired, brown-skinned boy in the wheatpasting group of friends who ends up being very happy that Renan got stranded.
After a series of tracking shots following the various characters as they move through the streets — the two boys eventually pair off — Renan moves to paste up a poster while the other boy waits for him, leaning up against a wall, a half-smile on his face. He’s waiting for something; by now we’re waiting, too.
The poster keeps falling off the very dirty wall and finally, impatiently, the other boy pulls on Renan’s shirt to gather him close; and they kiss, for quite a long time, too.
The sequence cuts from a medium shot to a close-up just after they switch places, panting, slobbering, getting more passionate, with Renan up against the wall instead of the other boy. This is exactly the sort of surprise that a night, a space, a place, a flow outside normal events like this can facilitate, or least boys like these can hope for it.
Renan steps back from the kiss, breathing hard, and with wonder looks at the other boy, whose skin shades lighter and who’s out of frame now; then he breaks into a laugh and smiles.
The slogan on his shirts says:
Read some risky writing.
Imagination is more important than knowledge.
It’s worth completing that quote from Einstein:
For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination encircles the world.