When and where Northeast Brazil's poorer population does appear within the heavily monitored community, there is at best some measure of awkwardness to their interactions with the residents (take for instance João's [Gustavo Jahn] conversation with the night cashier), not to mention the impression - one that the film conspires to confirm: see the sudden sharp ring of the telephone as a couple trespasses in an empty home - that they do not belong. Of course, Neighboring Sounds undercuts this simple calculus of the poor as criminal as it is the wealthy grandson of the community's most prominent resident, Francisco Oliveira (W. S. Sohla), who in fact is responsible for a string of car-stereo robberies. Neighboring Sounds, in other words, does not succumb to the breathtaking simplicity of Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund's favela-set City of God (2002), the last Brazilian fiction feature to receive a fair share of international traction, but rather reproduces a world where dangers exist both inside and outside the bright white bars of the high-security city.
Equally focal, thematically no less than graphically, is Neighboring Sounds' domestic architecture, whether it is as a reminder of the class-based fear around which the film's subjects organize their daily lives, or for the allegorical work that the steel bars do in echoing the picture's shifting set of protagonists' alienated experiences of twenty-first century Brazil. Maeve Jinkings' cannabis-smoking housewife presents the most conspicuous site for the latter discourse, while also providing one of the films's more memorable characterizations: it is the actress's Bia who incapacitates the yapping dog, pleasures herself atop a quivering kitchen appliance, and sporadically (if affectingly) mouths the lyrics to Queen's "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love," in a single, static close-up.
Neighboring Sound's concluding passage, following its rural digression, will find Francisco confronted with a past crime, and in no position to defend himself against his would be avengers. In fact, as this final act will show, the security firm's very presence in the neighborhood, beginning near the conclusion of part one, is no more than a ruse to get close to the film's guilty patriarch. In this respect, Neighboring Sounds is explicit about its own dramatic construction, as a security plot orchestrated for other purposes, much as it will also knowingly exclude Sofia at the very end, inasmuch as "she has some other story, somewhere else." Neighboring Sounds, in other words, is a film that is fully aware of the means with which it discovers a dramatic subject amid its broader community cast - as its opening Steadicam also shows us. Perhaps Sofia's Neighboring Sounds will come later.