Film Review: Burning Night (Breve Miragem De Sol)

Director Eryk Rocha’s second feature Burning Night (Breve Miragem De Sol) is a slow-burn drama. The film is observant, even if it is not always engaging.

Paulo is a taxi driver in Rio trying to earn enough money to support his son, who lives with his ex-wife. As he picks up fares at night, Paulo sees the chaotic nature of the city…

From the opening shot of Rocha’s film, the one thing that is immediately conveyed is a sense of artificiality. The lights flashing on the steering wheel and the synthetic tunnel suggest a sense of unnaturalness that does not dissipate. 

Burning Night returns time and again to the lack of intimacy, even in close quarters. The first voices we hear are over the radio system, and the first passengers we see talk over and around protagonist Paulo. As he throws them out, one comments that he is there to serve them. The relationship here is not one of respect, or of parity. 

Narrative reveals a little about Paulo’s personal like, following the end of his initial shift. Director and co-writer Rocha gives us exposition through snippets of radio news, it is a succinct way of giving viewers a picture of the wider context. As the narrative progresses, Paulo is party to the very private conversations of his passengers. 

It is not until amongst a third of the way in that he has his first face-to-face conversation on a personal level. It is pointed that the persona who engages him is a nurse; Rocha makes the distinction in attitude between the wealthier patrons of the city. The narrative only really makes a progression at the half-way mark. The footage of the city has a dream-like quality. Yet the lack of narrative substance means that the film is not really that engaging.

Given the nature of the space, it is unsurprising that Rocha uses plenty of close ups. Burning Night focuses not only on Paulo’s face, but his hands as he handles money, even in wider settings. Rocha wishes to create an intimacy with the character, a contrast to the lack of intimacy he has with most of the people he encounters. The viewer observes Paulo rather than seeing things from his point of view. 

Burning Night offers a picture of a city in perpetual change. It is a shame that aspects hinted at are not woven closely into the narrative.

Burning Night (Breve Miragem De Sol) is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

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