Ema is a very attractive but innocent girl, so pretty that cars crash in her presence. Young marries Dr. Carlo Paiva, who she is not attracted to, but is her father's friend. They move to ... See full summary »
Ema is a very attractive but innocent girl, so pretty that cars crash in her presence. Young marries Dr. Carlo Paiva, who she is not attracted to, but is her father's friend. They move to the Valley of Abraham. Carlo loves her, but decides to sleep in a separate room, to avoid waking Ema when he has to return late at night. With time she begins to feel unhappy about her marriage so, with all the freedom she has, she takes a lover. Written by
Michel Rudoy <email@example.com>
"Abraham's Valley" may be the most extraordinary achievement of Portuguese cinema which confirms that Manoel de Oliveira is among the world's greatest filmmakers capable of creating an unmistakably personal style and sensibility while depicting the human condition. I agree with the first comment which pointed out that one cannot speak of a direct adaptation of Flaubert's novel, but it should also be mentioned that de Oliveira comparable to Robert Bresson and his film versions of Dostoyevsky's works conveys the theme into his very own microcosm, and leaves the source material behind while at the same time maintaining key elements of the narrative and the ambivalence of the main character.
The rigid and formal aestheticism which de Oliveira had been developing throughout his long career doesn't require camera movements, and stands out due to a brilliant sense for composition that actually seems to owe a lot to the staging techniques of early silent cinema as well as the eclectic rigours of C. T. Dreyer and Straub/Huillet. The few times the camera moves it creates an amazing effect on the viewer, as if de Oliveira were re-inventing the effect.
The antique interior decorations and the spellbinding landscape of the Douro valley reshape the overall baroque but vital feel of a film which is constantly guided by an omniscient voice over that funds Flaubert's Emma and the one played by Leonor Silveira. "Abraham Valley" is in my opinion one of the most beautiful and authentic masterpieces of recent decades, but since the critical world doesn't seem to give much credit to Portuguese cinema in general (aside those co-productions which feature international stars) the viewer might be lucky enough to catch this film during a retrospective at a cinematheque.
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