|Index||5 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"At night he stands up, the distant call of birds already deep inside
him; and feels bold, because he has taken all the galaxies into his
face." Rainer Maria Rilke
To the contemplative background of a Chopin Sonata, 102-year old Manoel de Oliviera's The Strange Case of Angelica is a quietly masterful meditation on the thin line between the present and the past and between this world and the next. Even after half a century of making movies, The Strange Case of Angelica shows that Oliviera is willing to take risks and explore issues that most directors stay far away from. Winner of numerous awards at Cannes and Venice, Oliviera's camera is often static and even by standards of art cinema, the film is slow, yet, even though it can be heavy-going at times, it is atmospheric, moody, and spiritually informed, filled with the truth of life.
In the middle of a rainy night, Isaac (Ricardo Trepa), a Sephardic Jewish photographer, is summoned by wealthy hotel owners to take photos of their daughter, Angelica (Pilar López de Ayala), who has suddenly died. A beautiful bride dressed in her wedding gown with a hint of a smile on her face, Isaac is immediately captured by her presence and magically sees Angelica open her eyes and smile at him through the lens of his camera. He becomes obsessed with Angelica, dreaming of her angelic smile, and starts to withdraw from the outside world. He becomes, in the phrase of John Banville, "all inwardness, gazing out in ever intensifying perplexity upon a world in which nothing is exactly plausible, nothing is exactly what it is."
The landlady of the boarding house where he is staying notices Isaac's odd behavior and sullen disposition and comments to her other guests that he has become strange. One night, as he stands in the dining room, he sees a group of workers tilling the soil and singing work songs as they would have done in the 1950s and rushes out to the vineyard to photograph them. Underlying the director's view that beauty has disappeared from modern life, when the same scene appears again later in the film, the work is being done by noisy overbearing machines and the sweet music of the worker's song has been replaced by the roar of the tiller's engine.
As his fellow boarders and a pair of engineers take their meals, they talk about the cancellation of a bridge-building project, the difference between matter and anti-matter, and the current economic climate, yet Isaac stands aloof sipping on coffee and shows little interest. One night Angelica's spirit appears and reaches out to him through the dimensions and hovers over his sleeping body. In a vivid out-of-body experience, he takes her hand as they soar together through the clouds above farms and villages, in rapturous embrace.
Though Isaac talks about, "that strange reality" saying, "perhaps it was just a hallucination, but it was just as real as waking life," the experience binds him ever closer to Angelica and, as if gripped by a sudden feverish insanity, loses his grip on the everyday world around him. Though at times lacking in lightness of spirit, The Strange Case of Angelica is the work of a master who challenges us to see the "absolutely unbroken continuity" between life and death, informing us with his camera that love is forever, that life is forever.
I was informed before the showing that Director Manoel de Oliviera was
over 100 years old when he directed this film. So I took that into
consideration. That may be one of the reasons I did not walk out half
way through the screening.
However, in retrospect, this is not a bad film, but one that is very personal (for the director) to the extent it may not connect with everyone. Many inserts to the film (e.g. the labourers in the field) may have no bearing to the story but they were there. And an average Joe like me couldn't understand the reason why they were there. Metaphor, poetry, or scenery diversion may be the reasons but I could not tell.
In a sense it is a story about a young photographer losing his mind, and eventually his health, as a result of the escalating obsession following an encounter with a beautiful, dead woman. That I can relate to. But the story could definitely be told in a more lively, and less arty fashion to appeal to a larger audience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a spooky movie, but not a horror movie. But as in some horror
movies, I got goose bumps (chills) in several places during the movie.
A movie like "The Shining" also does that to me, whereas "Frankenstein"
The movie passes quickly, even though the director slows the visuals down in several places. I think at times he might have been trying to invest certain visuals with a spooky feeling but that it did not work. This includes some nice landscape views and iron bars and grates. If he was going for spookiness throughout, he did not succeed, but I have a feeling that by and large he was not trying for that. I think he was trying instead to develop a theme of matter and spirit. The fact that there is a scene with a discussion of matter, energy and anti-matter suggests this.
A photographer is called to an upper class home to photograph a dead girl in her early twenties. There is a hint that her death was not natural, but this isn't followed up. The photographer in taking one photo sees her move, open her eyes and smile at him. This moment is really spooky and we expect it to occur again, but it does not. However, she appears to him in a dream and they go flying off into the night sky. He then becomes obsessed with her and thinks she is calling to him, which she is. Eventually she appears even when he is awake, but he cannot catch sight of her. When he turns, she disappears. I will not reveal the final resolution of his quandary.
The story details his transformation from a normal life into a puzzled quest for the spirit or ghost or angelic form of this girl. He falls in love with her, although there is no physical interaction. His spirit, locked in his body, cannot unite with her spirit.
Along the way, the people around him note his troubles and don't know what to make of them. He wards them off.
He goes out to photograph laborers doing digging the old-fashioned way with wicked looking hoes. You halfway expect them to unearth some corpses. There is an implicit contrast between this activity, his photographing it, and his relation with the dead girl and her spirit. He seems to be trying to stay in this world while being pulled to another world. He mixes their photographs and has them all hung on a line inside his apartment. He stops eating normally.
I am not sure what the meaning of these laborers is or the subsequent scene with the modern equipment that replaces them and rakes the ground, which he also photographs. It is as if to say that the new and modern has replaced the old, but the world is still the same. The old is still here. The nature of matter is still the same. The spiritual is still there, even though the moderns deny it. Angelica is an angel really, not a ghost. That is why she is named Angelica, and that is why she is smiling when dead.
The housekeeper keeps trying to get the photographer to eat and desist from photographing the old. She represents the practical modernity. She is an antagonist to the photographer who tells her to leave him alone. She has boarders and guests who are into the science of matter. They represent another face of modernity that denies spirit and angels.
There is a beggar who too persistently begs the photographer for money, and there is a snotty and critical housekeeper at the dead girl's home. They seem to represent a darker side of humanity. The laborers are coarse but, in contrast, they are doing honest and hard work.
The photographer is torn and confused by what's happening to him, but also obsessed with the girl as his love for her grows, until he calls out for her near her grave.
The director uses open door frames and doors as a motif. He uses gates with bars across them. The door frames signify a gateway or passageway to the other world. The photographer at one point near the end leaves the door to the girl's home open, where earlier he had closed it. Angelica appears near a doorway several times, and the climax also involves a doorway.
It is apparent that in this unusual story, the film makers knew what they were doing. The result is above average.
it is not an ordinary film. it is only a meeting. with Manoel de Oliveira vision about art purpose, with slices from Chagall art and. maybe, with the levels of an obsession. a film about art , love and life. raving, poetic, strange or touching, it is, like many of director movies, only a confession. and that is the key for be different. because, at first sigh, nothing is new. it could be a Gothic story adaptation, a film about mixture of dream and magic, a poem or remember about great paintings. an art movie by an immortal/legendary master who use, with precision, delicacy and inspiration known themes. in fact, it is only a touching story about common things. a poem in image who testify experience of a remarkable longevity. a film who remembers fairy tale and classic love stories. in fact, only a search. about axis of personal universe.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wanted to see this movie so badly because of many other good films
its director made in the past. But I was very disappointed. :( This
movie is weak and has and absurd story.
The acting is not bad (what can they do anyway with the terrible lines they are sometimes given) and there are a couple of good moments. But all the ghost love story is just absurd and never starts in my opinion. It has an amateurish quality that plays against it.
What makes me angry is that this movie is sold as an art movie just because of its director. It is not. This is not poetic, it is just one bad movie.
Honestly, one to skip.
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