REVIEW: ‘Deserto Particular’ Is a Sublime Slow-Burn Erotic Film

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Deserto Particular - But Why tho

The best way to approach Aly Muritiba’s Deserto Particular is to know as little as possible about its details or even its cast. Every beat, twist, and turn is magnificently assembled to create a transformative experience. This is a surprising and exquisite slow-burn film that pays off big time with an explosion of subtle warmth and eroticism.

The story follows Daniel (Antonio Saboia), a disgraced cop who lost his job after an outburst of violence. The void in his life, only occupied by taking care of his demented father, is only filled when he’s texting Sara, a woman he met online. When his messages suddenly stop getting responses, he decides to ignore an upcoming appointment with the local justice and travel to Sara’s hometown of Juazeiro to search for her. This occurs 40 minutes into the film and, at this point, I had no clue what was waiting around the corner. Would this man suffer the hand of justice for escaping his fate? Is this just a story about a dangerous toxic man stalking a woman he’s never met in person? But what Muritiba delivers is unexpected and fulfilling: when Daniel finally meets Sara (P. Fasanaro), Deserto Particular awakens with a fiery passion. We change protagonists and structure.  And this transformational crescendo builds to an unforgettable peak of emotion.

Aly Muritiba, the film’s director and writer, uses a slow approach to establish complex multidimensional characters that seem to be complete opposites of each other. One doesn’t comprehend his own desires and the other is completely sure about them but is pressured by his/her surroundings to smother them. However, both feel persecuted, or even captive, by society. This relationship is enhanced further by the superb transitioning from the testosterone-filled world of policemen and violence that Daniel inhabits to a tender small-town landscape in which Sara is experimenting with her identity.

Muritiba masterfully constructs Daniel’s character. He uses his long first act to show that, despite his rough exterior and prejudiced reactions, there’s empathy and vulnerability somewhere in there: you can get glimpses of it as he takes care of his father or when trying to connect with his sister. The physical aspect brings a touch of danger to the plot too: his big body, hard stare, and violent past hints that a sudden burst of anger might shatter his and Sara’s life at any moment. But Deserto Particular’s resolutions are not stemmed from violence, but long silences, confusion, and understanding instead. Daniel’s emotional evolution hits even harder than any outburst could’ve allowed. Here we have this huge Southern policeman with a militaristic family legacy, embracing his inner desires with gusto which allows the subtle build of eroticism to erupt to the surface with unexpected force. His whole arc feels like the blossoming of a flower, and only in the last five minutes, you’ll be able to appreciate the full beauty of the bloom.

Antonio Saboia (Bacurau) delivers a tricky multilayered performance in which he has to hide the sensitivity of Daniel under a heavy layer of machismo; he walks through a thin line of desire that, under a less skilled actor, could’ve fallen into creepy obsession. Meanwhile,  Pedro Fasanaro delivers a powerhouse performance; he’s a quiet magnetic presence whose unwavering self-assurance draws you into his struggle for love.

Muritiba’s documentary background shines through as he quietly creates a naturalistic immersion into the town of Juazeiro. Cinematographer Luis Arteaga illustrates Daniel’s curious mindset as he arrives into this new world and uses the vast landscapes to enhance the contrasting ideologies and ways of life between the two main characters. With every scene, his camera brings you closer to the characters.

Furthermore, Arteaga’s highly sensual and tactile work captures every last bit of beauty and tenderness out of romantic encounters. This brings us to one of the best scenes of 2021: Surrounded by dreamlike lighting, Sara and Daniel dance to Bonnie Tyler’s perfectly used “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Arteaga’s delicate combination of push-in and arc movements organically transforms a medium shot into an extreme close-up brimming with emotion. You can almost feel the breath of Sara and Daniel in your mouth. This scene is then connected to the third act with breathtaking precision by Muritiba. It’s a stunning piece of work all around that allows the “Forever’s gonna start tonight” lyric to powerfully resonate in your soul even as the credits start rolling.

In many ways, Deserto Particular feels like a tool of understanding whose objective is to repair a fractured nation. It’s no mistake that Daniel’s journey goes from Curitiba to Juazeiro, from South to North. The story transports rigid perceptions to a calm and more tender terrain where sensitivity might be able to overcome prejudice. The film is a battle of ideologies that, in the end, are conciliated through the power of love. Muritiba makes sure that this conciliation is achieved through a sensorial erotic experience whose fire escapes the screen to embrace your heart.

Deserto Particular is Brazil’s submission for the 2022 Best International Feature Oscar race. 


Deserto Particular
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

In many ways, Deserto Particular feels like a tool of understanding whose objective is to repair a fractured nation. It’s no mistake that Daniel’s journey goes from Curitiba to Juazeiro, from South to North. The story transports rigid perceptions to a calm and more tender terrain where sensitivity might be able to overcome prejudice. The film is a battle of ideologies that, in the end, are conciliated through the power of love. Muritiba makes sure that this conciliation is achieved through a sensorial erotic experience whose fire escapes the screen to embrace your heart.