“A Wolf at the Door” (“O Lobo atrás da Porta”)
A Child is Kidnapped
A child is kidnapped. The parents, Sylvia and Bernardo are at the police station as is, Bernardo’s lover and main suspect. Rosa, the main suspect and lover of Bernardo, give contradictory evidence. The three give contradictory stories which and as we watch what is gong on we are taken to some very dark places where desire, lies, evil and wickedness reside. “A Wolf at the Door” is based on real events. When Sylvia (Fabíula Nascimento) discovers her six-year-old daughter has been picked up at school by an unknown woman, police summon her husband Bernardo (Milhem Cortaz) to the station for questioning. There Bernardo confesses his extra-marital affair with the beautiful young Rosa (Leandra Leal), whom detectives believe to be involved in the kidnapping.
The kidnapping is the final act in a vicious love-triangle storyline, which is then told backward through the police-station testimonies of the child’s parents and Rosa, the revengeful mistress who last picked up the little girl from school. Where the film shines is in its peripheral intentions—specifically, in the way it presents heterosexual gender relations in Brazil as a “volatile symbiosis between feminine hysteria and ruthless machismo”.
Kidnapping and abduction are the subject and debut feature film of Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Coimbra whose story tale is laced with tragic elements that make his film memorable. In fact, the kidnapping that seems to be the center of the film at first soon is upstaged by the love triangle. Coimbra chooses to show us that story by presenting it in reverse order and it plays to us as did the Greek tragedy it is loosely based upon. Saying any more than that will give away too much information and ruin the film for those who have not yet seen it.
When Sylvia goes to pick up her daughter from school, she learns that the teacher received a call from Sylvia authorizing a neighbor to come collect the girl. We realize immediately that the child has been abducted, but by whom or for what is unclear since the family is poor. With the questioning by the police we learn that both parents are engaged in extra-marital affairs. Bernardo is convinced his ex-mistress Rosa is responsible, but she denies involvement until the school teacher identifies Rosa as the woman that retrieved the child. Rosa offers to tell the truth about her story and we then are taken on a journey differing perspectives.
Rosa’s affair with Bernardo was a way for her to leave her sad existence and it offers her not only sex but passion. However, he begins to withdraw and becomes abusive when she tells him that she is pregnant. Rosa’s begins a friendship with Bernardo’s wife and then we really see her as a woman in turmoil.
We might say that this is an examination of the dangers of adulterous relationships. The triangular nature of the relationship is not condemned on moral grounds but only because it sets up a desire for revenge that moves forward and backward with a surprising and tragic conclusion. The performances are excellent all around and they keep us guessing as to the motive of the kidnapping.
It all begins at a train stop in Rio as Rosa flirts outrageously with Bernardo who appears to be a good deal older than her. There are some very erotic sex scenes between Rosa and Bernardo who insists that he loves his wife even while they are making love. When the affair goes on the rocks, Rosa’s desperation leads her to meet secretly with Bernardo’s wife Sylvia.
Looking back at the film, it really is homage to the theater of the Greeks and the tragic plays that they performed. who in an intricate plan involving a loudmouthed hooker, seeking to break up her lover’s marriage. If there is a message here, it undoubtedly is the dangers of cheating while married.