Good Manners

Brasil/France 2017, 135 mins
Directors: Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra

SPOILER WARNING The following notes give away some of the plot.

Directors Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra on ‘Good Manners’
With Good Manners you take your cinematographic approach to a new level in the way you’re mixing the fantastic and the social. Can you tell us what was the starting point of this film, in relation to your previous work?

The fantastic element in our first feature, Hard Labor, became part of the story progressively as it approached its climax. In Good Manners we decided to create a fantasy world from the beginning and make use of the fairy tale narrative style. The story occurs in a slightly dreamy version of São Paulo, and takes unexpected turns that are only possible in a magical world. But the materialistic themes of class and race are still present and problematic.

Let’s talk about the female characters. Ana is an opportunity for you to describe someone from the upper middle class trying to acquire independence. How did you develop this character and her issues?

Ana connects us with the countryside, where werewolf folklore developed in Brazil. Therefore, in our first version of the script, she belonged to a more romantic and gothic universe. After some research, however, we came across a younger generation of rich farmers from the Goiás state, a region that has deep connections with Brazil’s colonial period, and where country music is extremely popular. So this shaped our new idea of Ana: a young woman that used to live in a rural bubble of privilege and ostentation finds herself pregnant and rejected. Alone, she moves to São Paulo, to a nouveau riche area of corporate buildings and residential skyscrapers. This becomes a chance for her to connect with a different side of herself.

Clara is the protagonist and the one who leads us into this fable. Why did you bring in the character of the nanny?

Nannies are a common figure in Brazilian middle and upper class families. They have a strong presence in the child’s upbringing and are considered a second mother to many. Through Clara’s character, we wanted to explore themes of motherhood and work/class relations. We tried to build her with a certain mystery – she has a nomadic nature and migrated from town to town before moving to the periphery of São Paulo. Taking care of her grandmother gave her intuitive notions of medicine and spirituality. She’s a strong person who stands up to Ana and refuses to be abused. But when Ana begins to deconstruct herself as a boss, Clara sees her fragility, and both women find they have more in common than they imagined.

Let’s talk about their relationship: love, sex and finally motherhood. Clara becomes the second mother and will indeed raise Joel after Ana can no longer be there. What can you say about this idea and the two-act structure?

The structure was born this way: with a singular rupture at the centre of the story that allowed us to address different aspects of motherhood. Through Ana, we discuss biological motherhood, the gestation of a baby and the sometimes aggressive impact it has on a woman’s body. In the second half we follow Clara, and look at the difficulties of educating a child. An important inspiration to our story is Brecht’s play The Caucasian Chalk Circle – a revision of Solomon’s tale that asks: who is the real mother of a child, the biological one or the person who raises them? Love and family ties are also born from work and care, and not always the result of blood connections. Initially, Clara adopts Joel due to her love for Ana but also because she sees through his monstrous features. But becoming a mother is in itself an education. While Clara tries to raise Joel, teaching him to have good manners, she must eventually learn to accept his true nature.

Your formal choice is the one of a horrific fairy tale. Let’s talk about your genre, mood and mise-en-scène references for the film.

Genre can give us a deep understanding of the anxieties of the world we live in. We’re both fans of the early features of Disney and the impure way in which they mix genre: Snow White, Dumbo and Bambi use music, horror and fantasy to address complex themes like envy, loneliness and puberty. We wanted to follow this model, but bring our own contemporary themes into the story: sexual desire, what defines a family, the metamorphosis of the body. Fairy tales are also a broad and very direct form, not necessarily moral, that uses the matter of daily life to create fantasy and meaning. Good Manners is our attempt to create a modern fairy tale. We were also inspired by the films of Jacques Tourneur, particularly Cat People and The Leopard Man, where atmosphere and use of off-screen space are carefully handled.

You show the city in a stylised way. How did you work with Rui Poças, your cinematographer, and the rest of the team?

We were setting up these two different spaces: Ana’s nouveau riche apartment and the world of the periphery that Clara inhabits. We treated them like the castle and the surrounding woods of ancient tales. Added to that, was the mystical aspect of the werewolf story. Each of these concepts came with their own set of rules about colour, light and design. Production designer Fernando Zuccolotto worked with artist Eduardo Schaal to design the matte paintings using old school techniques, inspired by films like Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus and Hitchcock’s Marnie, as well as the work of brilliant Disney artist Mary Blair.

Even though you use the codes of fantasy, we can see the modern concerns. Do you think you’ve made a political movie?

Yes. The idea of contrast is central to the werewolf myth. Human versus beast, civilisation versus instinct. We expanded this idea to all aspects of the story: centre and periphery, white and black, rich and poor. The split form of the film also reflects that: horror movie and children’s movie are combined into the same story. The characters are separated by all kinds of barrier: class, race, neighbourhood, origins, faith, age and time. They also deal with loneliness and concealed desire. In a way, the homosexual love story between such different characters and the formation of the unusual family are maybe the wildest fantasy of the film: the idea that all barriers built by civilised society can be questioned and eventually broken.
Interview by Bernard Payen, production notes

Directed by: Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra
Production Companies: Dezenove Som e Imagens, Good Fortune Films, Urban Factory
Co-produced by: Globo Filmes
Producers: Maria Ionescu, Sara Silveira, Clément Duboin, Frédéric Corvez
Associated Producer: José Alvarenga Jr
Production Director: Cristina Alves
Post-production Supervisor (Brazil): Fran Mosquera
Post-production Supervisor (France): Vincent Alexandre
Casting: Alice Wolfenson
Written by: Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra
Cinematography: Rui Poças
Editing: Caetano Gotardo
Visual Effects: Mikros Image
Visual Effects and Matte Paintings Composition: Quanta Post
Production Design: Fernando Zuccolotto
Matte Paintings: Eduardo Schaal
Character Design: Mathieu Vavril
Costume Design: Kiki Orona
Make-up and Hair: Rosemary Paiva
Make up Effects and Animatronics: CLSFX Atelier 69
Colourist: Yov Moor
Original Music by: Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas, Guilherme Garbato, Gustavo Garbato
Musical Directors: Guilherme Garbato, Gustavo Garbato
Sound Recordist: Gabriela Cunha
Sound Design: Bernardo Uzeda
Sound Mixing: Christophe Vingtrinier

Isabél Zuaa (Clara)
Marjorie Estiano (Ana)
Miguel Lobo (Joel)
Cida Moreira (Dona Amélia)
Andrea Marquee (Ângela)
Felipe Kenji (Maurício)
Nina Medeiros (Amanda)
Neusa Velasco (Dona Norma)
Gilda Nomacce (Gilda)
Eduardo Gomes (Professor Edu)
Hugo Villavicenzio (Hugo)
Adriana Mendonça (Cida)
Germano Melo (Dr Ciro Poças)
Naloana Lima (homeless woman)
Clara de Cápua (security guard)
Ivy Souza (woman at the mall)

Brazil/France 2017
135 mins

Good Manners (As Boas Maneiras)
Sun 27 Nov 18:10; Wed 30 Nov 20:25
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Mon 28 Nov 18:10
Pet Sematary
Mon 28 Nov 20:40
Under the Shadow
Tue 29 Nov 18:10
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Wed 7 Dec 18:15; Thu 22 Dec 20:45 (+ intro by Dr Catherine Wheatley, Reader in Film Studies at King’s College London)
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Wed 21 Dec 18:10: Thu 29 Dec 20:40
Ginger Snaps
Wed 21 Dec 20:50; Tue 27 Dec 15:10
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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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