DIRECTOR: MANUEL DE OLIVEIRA
CINEMATOGRAPHY: MARIO BARROSO
MUSIC: SOFIA GUBAIDULINA, TOSHIRO MAYUZUMI, STRAVINSKY
CAST: Luis Miguel Cintra, Catherine Deneuve, Gilberto Goncalves, John Malkovich, Heloisa Miranda, Leonor Silveira, Duarte de Almeida
SUPER FEATURES: Weird film from the start.
Portugal, must be suffering from relapses of grandeur in its arts. And if the country is not doing so, at least this particular film maker thinks that he is making an occult film of some sort. Instead he makes a silly story become even sillier, because his knowledge, and study into the his work, is superficial, and never gets out of the stupid intellectual points of view.
It might have been a rather interesting film, were it not for a card reader and her boyfriend, acting very pagan all the time, as if it meant anything special to the film. They come off as silly and off key, instead.
This film purports to study some connection that the convent has with the past history in some form of the occult arts. But instead, of concentrating on the arts, it spends its time discussing various passages of Goethe's Faust, and trying to get one priest to look like a Mephistopheles, that he is not, and is too insecure to ever become one.
Considering the poor design of the script and its ideas, it is a wonder that there is much here. The film comes off as vain, and not meaningful. It starts with a story about a couple, but it ends with a fisherman... it may have made better sense to have started with the fisherman and his story, or version of the supposedly occult anything's in the convent. Instead, it forgets the story, and tries to concentrate on the priest's obvious desires for Helene, and even Piedade, when the time comes. And although this could have made a fascinating story on its own, it never gets off the ground, probably because the script and director did not have the depth to take it this far.
But aside from a poor script and design, one can at least see what a pair of very good actors can do to a meaningless thing. Both John Malkovich and Catherine Deneuve are very good, even if what they do is basically meaningless. For John's character, all he has to do is bury himself in the studies to make it deeper. For Helene, she just has to be herself,
and question things around her. Unfortunately, no one else is as well defined. Piedade comes to mind, but here she is the victim of a bad script and direction. She becomes a "character" and then becomes a non-character, which is rather silly in any film, or theatre.
A lot of this is the result of the Portuguese literary pseudo intellect, which attempts to make meaningful things that are not, and steadfastly refuse to insert new artists, blood and people, into a society that has gotten very old, staid, and boring. It is easier to intellectualize others than it is to see if anyone new has anything to say. The story of the film is similar... an attempt to intellectualize something that is not intellectual, or important for that matter, unless one worries about one priest being unfaithful to his church and himself. Old story, boring shit.
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