Ezzah Mahmud utilised her BAFTA Student membership card, which allows her to watch any film she wants at her local cinema for free.
The first, and I would say the main reason why I came across and watched this film is because Wagner Moura is in it. Moura is a Brazilian actor who broke into the Hollywood film industry a couple of years ago when he played Spider, an entrepreneur/ticket agent for Earthlings to fly to Elysium, alongside Matt Damon in ‘Elysium’. He has already been widely known in Brazil for his outstanding role as Captain Nascimento, a protagonist in ‘Elite Squad’ and its sequel ‘Elite Squad: The Enemy Within’.
It came to my comprehension and realisation that lately I kind of admire Moura…as an actor of course. He has this unexplained charisma and screen presence that is not only believable, but macho and cool at the same time. He has a distinguished way of blinking his eyes, and more: how his brows move, how his scapula undulate, the way he walks and of course, the way he utters the dialogue. I guess I am a sucker for deep, raw accents (which explains why I love to hear Iko Uwais and Nicolas Saputra speak as well). I took some time to look for all his films and watch them all; it’s totally worth it, you guys should check them out.
‘Trash’ is a film by Stephen Daldry, who directed famous films such as ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘The Reader’, to name a few. It is an adaptation from a young adult novel written by Andy Mulligan with same title. The film is driven by three young adults who live in a slump. The story moves forward after Raphael (Rickson Tevez) found a wallet which belongs to Jose Angelo (Wagner Moura), resulting in a chaotic chase between the corrupt policeman, played by cunningly handsome Selton Mello, and Raphael. He and his friends, Rato (Gabriel Weinstein) and Gardo (Eduardo Luis) choose not to give up the wallet and instead, solve the message that Jose Angelo tries to convey.
This film is cinematically similar to ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, giving a sense of the same warmth and dry colour of the location, the dust and the dirtiness contribution to how ‘orange’ and hot the streets of Brazil are. One thing I like about this film is that it was shot on location in Rio de Janeiro (mentioned at the end of the credits; yes, I have a habit of watching a film until the very end). The setting is spectacular and achingly realistic in a way. A standing ovation I present to the cast and crew, for I really feel that it is a rough place to shoot in, and they nailed it! Every scene and shot is perfect within its imperfections.
Thematically, this film puts forward profound values, and in my opinion, they’re at about the same level of what ‘The Hunger Games’ tried to portray. Fight for justice and go against the corrupt authority (represented by the policemen and politicians) with every effort you have. Though the film does not take place in a dystopian world, the message and values are the same: to ‘man up’ and to resist, to fight and to do what is right. I think, this film has delivered an obvious yet subtle message to the audience to fight for justice. More specifically in the case of this film, age does not matter. It conveys an absolute irony where the main characters are kids from the slum, who do not get proper education and work in a slum where all of the ‘trash’ were thrown. Despite their ‘trashiness’, which we may conclude as not worthy nor beneficial, they really are committed in doing what is right.
The title ‘Trash’ itself carries more that one meaning. It can be interpreted as the whole setting of the world in this film, which act as the foundation of this film. It can also represent the main character’s nature, where they come from, or the ‘trashiness’ of corrupt figures of authority who not only misuse their power, but also manipulate others with money (which, ironically, is the utmost opposite of ‘trash’).
We also may see the ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’ actress, Rooney Mara, and Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, Martin Sheen, as the protector of the kids at the slum. Both of them are effective in depicting the different standards of living that enhance the difference. The kids at the slums live in poor and unimagineable conditions, while these supporting characters live in a slightly better environment. On a sidenote, after watching Rooney Mara in this film, I totally forgot that she plays Lisbeth in the ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’. In ‘Trash’, her character, with her softness and fragility, tried to level up to the kids’ boldness, which I find amusing in a way.
Speaking of supporting characters, and having spoken of ‘Elite Squad’, a reunion of sorts was completed by Andre Ramiro. Then a BOPE officer, here he plays someone who is the complete opposite. The link grows with some of the locations being identical to ‘Elite Squad’. At one point, while watching this film I smiled gladly, feeling a little elated when I noticed the same locations. For a few moments, I replayed ‘Elite Squad’ scenes in my head. Movieception?
I like the fact that I didn’t check on my phone at any point, which meant the film held me till the end. The pauses, when the actions took place without any dialogue, with mere stares and moments to ponder for the characters, really helped to pace it for the audience. There were moments where it is just silence, and my heart skipped faster that it should just by the anticipation the pauses instill. This editing pace is not only effective, it really tied the audience to always keep track of the film. Cinematography-wise, I admire the fact that in the irony of mounts of trash was shot in a way that is so beautiful, you empathise and envy the characters (with emphasis on the empathy, of course).
A distinguished and stylistic approach that is obvious in this film is the presence of multiple scenes with a sort of documentary interview footage. Also, there was a few non-diegetic voiceovers throughout the film. I like the fact that the fictive visual where the story take place was intertwined with interview footage. Initially I thought, “Okay, perhaps it’s an experimental element that the director chose to play with,” but nope, it is actually a foreshadowing to what will happen towards the end of the film. The documentary interview style is actually part of the film.
Despite being a film about with character that live in ‘trash’ or slump, the production value of this film should be appreciated. The mise-en-scene, in most of the scenes (although we know that all of them are staged and purposely shot that way) is realistic and true to the scenes and characters. You’ll be amazed by the utilisation of locations where most of the scenes take place. The wardrobe of the characters, dirt on the characters, how the slump was on fire…and the one stuck in my mind, when Raphael was knocked out hard, despite his young age.
Even though I have not been to Brazil (one day, amin), I feel close to it. I can somewhat connect to it, and one element that made this happened is the soundtrack. I don’t understand a thing of what the songs are about, but the melody and unique essence of Brazilian music was mesmerising. Somehow, it just made sense and hit you right in the heart. They were beautifully composed and improved the visual tremendously. Not only do I recall all the theme songs of FIFA 2014, I found myself loosened up a bit, flowing with the beat in silently within me. That’s how I think soundtracks should be, they should complement the visuals.
In a nutshell, this film is a worthy investment. It’s is not only spectacular, the message that this film carries is profound and deep, and also it can be understood and related to a lot of us. Even though ‘Trash’ is a fiction film, it gives me sense of realness to some extent, from the scale of the setting to the simple yet strong characters.
Ezzah is definitely on #TeamWagnerMoura, even if his name is not on the British quad poster at the top of this review. Listen to Ezzah talk about films on episodes 7 and 8 of the podcast, and check out her writings here.
Featured image credit: The Dainty Squid