My initial idea for The Other Side of the Street centered
on Regina, a lonely sixty-five-year-old who works on a “neighborhood
watch” in Copacabana. She believes she witnessed a murder in the
building across the street. Frustrated with the police’s response,
she goes after the truth, and must take stock of her life when she gets
involved with the suspect.
Even before this idea was further developed, I knew that I wanted Fernanda
Montenegro (Academy Award® nominee for Central Station,
which I wrote) to play the part of Regina.
And here comes the title of this piece. With the story idea and perfect
actress in mind, I realized I wanted to make a “subjective”
film, a film centered on her character. Why? I don’t know. It
felt very appealing to me. At the same time I didn’t want to use
some common “rules” normally applied to
this type of film.
In sketching out the script, my writing partner Melanie Dimantas and
I first established that the lead character should be in every scene.
Then we went about adding the spice. To avoid the voice-overs, one of
the above-mentioned “rules,” in some parts of the film we
try to get into Regina’s lonely head, to feel what she is feeling:
we see images of what she wants to see; we hear sounds of what
she wants to hear.
With the first draft completed, my producing partner Katia Machado
came on board. With the
second draft we felt ready to send it to Fernanda. She first learned
of the project when I called her assistant to send her the script. Lucky
for me, she liked it, and came on board.
Now that we had the script and Fernanda, we were able to put the financing
together, and it was time to turn my “subjective” ideas
into a film. First, I had to decide which kind of shooting style to
use: shaky or stable. Often when people want to do a subjective approach
they use handheld cameras with many over the shoulder and point of view
shots. For The Other Side of the Street I decided to
try something different.
Together with the Director of Photography, we made a shot breakdown
following Regina’s feelings about other people and herself throughout
her journey. The film begins with camera shots kept at a “respectful
distance,” which is a mirror to the way Regina observes other
people’s lives. We move in slowly, as Regina gets closer to the
suspect and to her own
feelings. The first close-up takes place about twenty minutes into the
The Copacabana that Regina sees, the place that she inhabits, is not
the Copacabana of the picture postcard. Take out the exotic, and take
out the warm tones. This is the real Copacabana (seen through her eyes),
one filled with problems and disappointments.
The beach is there, but the clichéd allure is gone. Early on,
the art department suggested the paintings of Edward Hopper for their
atmosphere of loneliness. Bring on the blue tones (technically speaking,
the cyan). We tried a similar approach with the sound. As I said,
I knew I didn’t want to use voice-overs. So sometimes I have Regina
hear unexpected things, other times we enhanced or distorted noises
to create a palette of sounds to reflect her state of mind.
Of course, I don’t suppose all this will be promptly perceived.
I hope it is not, in fact.
All in all it is a simple film about a lonely woman who finds herself
in a situation where she has to make a few choices. But if people notice
a few of these things I described above, whatever they are, I hope it
adds another layer to this “subjective” but not shaky film.