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Chilean-born screenwriter, producer, teacher and director Raúl Ruiz' 66th feature film which was written by Portuguese screenwriter Carlos Saboga, is an adaptation of a novel from 1854 by 19th century Portuguese writer Camilo Castello Branco (1825-1890). It premiered at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in 2010 and is a France-Portugal co-production which was shot on various locations in Portugal and produced by Portuguese producer Paulo Branco. It tells the story about Pedro da Silva, a fourteen-year-old orphan who lives at a boarding school in Lisbon, Portugal which is run by Father Dinis during the Liberal Wars in the early 19th century. Pedro is searching for his origins and Father Dinis has managed to take his mind of his natural curiosity by having him focus on his studies, but one day after having received a visit by a countess named Angela de Lima who claims to be his mother, Father Dinis decides to help Pedro in his search for his identity.
Distinctly and subtly directed by Latin-American filmmaker Raúl Ruiz, this intricate and exquisite story which is narrated from multiple viewpoints, draws a stately and memorable portrayal of an adolescent boy's conflicting road towards discovering his true identity during the 19th century and the destinies of all the people who in one way or another were connected to his birth. While notable for its brilliant milieu depictions, production design and costume design by Portuguese production designer, art director and costume designer Isabel Branco, cinematography by Brazilian-born cinematographer André Szankowski and the cogent editing by Chilean screenwriter, film editor and director Valéria Sarmiento and film editor Carlos Madaleno, this somewhat surreal and romantic period drama which is driven by it's voice-over narration, dialog, variegated characters and interrelated stories, depicts multiple intriguing studies of character and contains a remarkable score by Chilean-born composer Jorge Arrigada and Portuguese composer and professor of music Luís Freitas Branco (1890-1955).
This rhythmic, multifaceted, at times humorous and invariably moving epic about human suffering, human relations, identity, love and faith, presents scenes where it is as if protagonists and antagonists were communicating within frames of art works and is a poetically atmospheric and melodramatic fictional tale which is impelled and reinforced by its fragmented narrative structure and the compelling acting performances by Portuguese actor Adriano Luz, French actress Clotilde Hesme, Portuguese actress Maria Joáo Bastos, Portuguese actor and director José Afonso Pimentel and Portuguese actor Ricardo Pereira. An accomplished cinematic achievement and a masterful mystery which gained, among other awards, the Silver Seashell Award for Best Director Raúl Ruiz at the 58th San Sebastián International Film Festival in 2010 and the TFCA Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 15th Toronto Film Critics Association Awards in 2011.
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