A meditation on civilization. July, 2001: friends wave as a cruise ship departs Lisbon for Mediterranean ports and the Indian Ocean. On board and on day trips in Marseilles, Pompeii, Athens... See full summary »
Every year the Viennale invites a famous director to produce a short film as the festival trailer. In 2014 the choice has fallen on the 105-year old Manoel de Oliveira. This year's trailer ... See full summary »
Each day, Man must work around the clock to produce and acquire bread: throwing the seeds into earth, helping the breeding of the corn, the corn's recolt, transport to the mills - ... See full summary »
José and Roberto are friends, and they decide to go hunting but without guns, so that no accident will happen. As they stroll and talk, one of them falls into a hole in a hidden marshland. ... See full summary »
Manoel de Oliveira
António Rodrigues Sousa,
João Rocha Almeida,
On Avenida Paulista, two friends, Leon and Ricardo, meet each other. They try to talk, but either the cell phone belonging to one, or the cell phone belonging to the other rings, preventing... See full summary »
A meditation on civilization. July, 2001: friends wave as a cruise ship departs Lisbon for Mediterranean ports and the Indian Ocean. On board and on day trips in Marseilles, Pompeii, Athens, Istanbul, and Cairo, a professor tells her young daughter about myth, history, religion, and wars. Men approach her; she's cool, on her way to her husband in Bombay. After Cairo, for two evenings divided by a stop in Aden, the captain charms three successful, famous (and childless) women, who talk with wit and intellect, each understanding the others' native tongue, a European union. The captain asks mother and child to join them. He gives the girl a gift. Helena sings. Life can be sweet. Written by
Manoel de Oliveira's film, which I have seen on the big screen recently, has appeared as something thoroughly unpredictable and surprising alike. One word, however, appears primordially: EDUCATIONAL. Although you may perceive its educational aspects from different standpoints, three dimensions occur to evoke as primarily unique: geographical, cultural and social.
It seems inevitable to state at the beginning that the movie is far clearer to understand for the European viewers than for the other ones. Meanwhile, with the very opening shot at Lisbon, Portugal, two purely Portuguese characters set the tone for the film but, at the same time, prompt assumptions: what this is going to be all about. Maria Rosa (Leonor Silveira) with her daughter Maria Joana (Filipa de Almeida) set off for the journey to India in order to meet the husband/father. As they visit different places in the Mediterreanian of tremendous historical/geographical interest and significance, there is a contradictory undertone. It is particularly expressed in the way mother speaks to her daughter. In spite of the fact that she is an educated person at the university who wants to see the places on her own, what does such a learned stuff serve in mother-little daughter talks? Meanwhile, the places, mute witnesses of glorious past, become their inspirational 'characters' including Pompei, Istanbul, Cairo and foremost, the city of Athens. There, they meet people, particularly an Orthodox priest who explains some complex facts of religious/historical/architectural importance. A scene worth noting is their visit at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. In some moments, the film becomes a guide book on screen. But geography somehow appears to correspond to history and that is where its purpose is served...
The movie is supplied with cultural and social dimension when four supporting characters get on board the ship: three women and one man. Not only the fact that they are played by magnificent cast does supply the scenes with absorbing vitality but also the contents of their meeting (mind you) at a table which occurs to symbolize equality and openness to talk: a French Delfina (Catherine Deneuve), an Italian Francesca (Stefania Sandrelli), a Greek Helena (Irene Papas) and an American of Polish ancestry Captain Walesa (John Malkovich). Although their speak their own mother tongues, they can communicate perfectly and understand each other tremendously well. Note their names that carry significant meanings. And what do they talk about? Anything that may be interesting and boring at the same time: something that, on the one hand, serves the plot perfectly well and, on the other hand, misses the point. But the excellent camera-work and the performances beautifully allow a viewer be involved in these scenes.
One note on camera-work. Due to mostly static camera, they are first depicted together within the frame of the screen, as if visually, any viewer is an observer. Once Maria Rosa with her daughter join them at the table, we get closeups. Consequently, we turn up perceptional closer, amongst them. The pinnacle of emotions that their scene at the table is when Helena sings a beautiful song in Greek, a song that sounds like a manifest of identity and pride of greatness.
But the harmony that the Europeans could find is interrupted. Although the film presents a dangerous political aspect here, it does not fall into the temptation of being some judge on recent history, particularly the 2001 WTC tragedy. In all this, it presents a human desire, a human situation, a human tragedy. What would you do if someone took the doll you love so much...hears little Maria Joana from her mother...
The powerful effect of the finale leaves a viewer speechless...not through visual effects that would stun a viewer but through something that the film manages to inspire: empathy.
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