Marcel Proust (1871-1922) is on his deathbed. Looking at photographs brings memories of his childhood, his youth, his lovers, and the way the Great War put an end to a stratum of society. ... See full summary »
A young couple marry in France in the 1940s and the film follows the arc of their marriage over the next decade. As France recovers from the trauma of the war, the wife finds herself ... See full summary »
It's almost a miracle to find a film like this one in theaters nowadays. An exceptional rarity, something that reminds you that cinema like this can still be achieved. Being a period piece, and with almost 5 hours of runtime (the 15-minute intermission included), it defies almost every convention of commercial cinema. And it doesn't drag one bit; every minute of the film is required, and while it absorbs you and doesn't let go, you feel grateful for it For those magical hours of hypnotic escapism.
"Mysteries of Lisbon" is en epic, mesmerizing adaptation of the homonym novel by Camilo Castelo Branco. It tells a series of interconnected stories set mostly in 19th century Lisbon, although the main plot is pretty much unique. In any case, the way each story leads to the other and how it all comes together towards the end is brilliant. The two main characters are Pedro da Silva and Padre Dinis; a priest and an orphan destined to form a close bond. But all characters are carefully fleshed out; apart from those two, Ângela de Lima (Pedro's mother) or Alberto de Magalhães, among others, stand out. It is the film's purpose to explore the enigmatic nature of most of these people, leaving them and coming back to them with deeply measured fluency, bringing forward through the set occasional details of their personality, frequently using voice-overs to convey their inner thoughts while staying faithful to the literary source material.
This last idea is also present in how much the act of observation matters in this film. In a great number of scenes, a lesser character is either listening to what is happening or watching that given scene from a distance, thus often adopting the viewer's external point of view. This objective is made clear through the miniaturist theater that Pedro receives as a present from his mother, a toy that Ruiz goes back to on several occasions to mark the transition between a scene and the next. It is a beautiful little trick and, in some way, it provides part of the film's complexity. This complexity is reinforced by a few ambiguous notes, some surrealist touches and of course the multiple layers of the plot.
Another remarkable aspect is the use of clear-cut sequence shots for the majority of scenes, each of those shots more impressive than the other. The film has therefore very few close-ups, something that would also contribute to create a certain distance with the viewer. Only in a couple of situations (usually of lesser significance) does Ruiz go back to a more orthodox way of shooting. But those delightfully crafted sequence shots give the film an extraordinary, almost intoxicating energy, especially when they are accompanied by the film's haunting score. That way, every shot is a wonder in terms of composition, but also as far as the lighting is concerned. Just a few marvelous examples would be the scene at the opera hall or when Alberto de Magalhães confronts another man while Padre Dinis is traveling in the calash. Indeed, this must be one of the most striking films I've had the chance to see on the big screen.
On the whole, this is a moving, tragic and awe-inspiring masterpiece. A feast for the senses, and an immediate entry in my top 50. *****
47 of 54 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?