Zubroffka Review: The Good Behaviour

At the 2014 Zubroffka Film Festival four young Polish journalists were mentored by film critic and journalist Michael Pattison in a workshop that helped them to explore the role of modern film criticism and journalism. Every day, the journalists met filmmakers, distributors and journalists as they learned how to make themselves stand out from the crowd and negotiate the complexities of a film festival. The following review is one of the results of this workshop.

There is an old legend briefly mentioned in O Bom Comportamento (The Good Behaviour) (Dir. Eva Randolph, Brazil, 2014) about a pregnant girl, who loses her child in a small but powerful waterfall, before she herself dies. Since then, she is taking away every child who came across the waterfall.

In the first scenes of The Good Behaviour we see a group of kids enjoying their time at a Catholic summer camp by a waterfall. It isn’t long before we find out that the area is dangerous: “Don’t jump – there are rocks,” warns one of the supervisors. It doesn’t stop a young boy from showing off in front of the girls – who he knows are watching him – especially Laura, the film’s protagonist. Laura, somehow different and unusual, is an outsider trying to make her way into the group, despite mocking her girl friends. With their cell phones confiscated, the kids are forced to do all their activities together. And the activities are as close to nature as they can get, especially the game that is leading young Laura, step by step, for a late-night tête-à-tête with her dream boy by the waterfall.

Nature, in fact, is in some ways the main character here. It has its own pulse: it’s everywhere, it’s separating and binding at the same time, calm yet extremely dangerous, gentle yet lethal. Similarly, the kids have something animalistic in them. Their play routines are very sensual, naughty and primal. Such qualities recall Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975): an old, mysterious kind of fear, caused by an elusive force that doesn’t care if you’re good or bad, because it has no moral sense. But unlike Picnic, nobody disappears in the labyrinth of mysterious rocks and we can only guess what is going to happen to Laura and her crush. Is there a grain of truth in the aforementioned old legend? Is the history going to turn full circle? Can we see a woman in the waterfall at night, near the end of the film? Or is it all just a figment, as ephemeral as summer love?

By Gosia Żuk

11 January 2015, by Cineuropa Shorts