You can tell a film is economical by the look of the film.
No one will doubt that Batman Begins is one helluva expensive film, from the sophisticated visual effects or from many sets used in the film. On the other hand, any films like In The Bedroom is said to be ‘small’ and ‘independent’ from the limited sets it uses, or simple from the rural look.
Another way to reduce the cost of filmmaking that tends to baloon these days is by having a limited cast. In Jasmine Women, Zhang Zi Yi plays different roles through different times. There is no harm done in doing this, as long as we are convinced with their portrayal of those variety of people who surely will carry different characters to inhibit within that one singular actor.
This is the point where The House of Sand fails to lift itself up from merely being an economical film. The film, which deals with a mother-and-daughter relationship spans over more than four decades, is set entirely in a desert, sparing us a swooning cinematography, only to already feel exhausted by the first half of the film.
Yet, the film’s biggest problem lies on the choice of Andrucha Waddington, the director, to cast both leads to play different roles. Arguably, both Fernanda Torres and Fernanda Montenegro are among Brazilian’s finest thespians. However, the risky decision to cast both actresses to play both mothers and daughters within different periods of time prove to be a risk not worth taking at all, for we are hardly convinced with their performance. It is not an easy task to carry different characters within confinement of 2-hour duration, and as a result, we simply do not buy otherwise a great idea. For the actors themselves, what could be a challenging role some actors dream of, simply does not work under a half-baked direction.
Thus, this is the film at its most economical way.