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José e Pilar (2010)

"José and Pilar," a documentary by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes, is a deeply moving story about love, loss and literature. It follows the days of José Saramago, the Nobel-laureate Portuguese ... See full summary »
5 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »


Credited cast:
Joao Afonso ...
Àngels Barceló ...
Herself (voice)
Tarja Halonen ...
Paco Ibáñez ...
Tomás Eloy Martínez ...
César Antonio Molina ...
María Pagés ...
Luis Pastor ...
Miguel Ríos ...


"José and Pilar," a documentary by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes, is a deeply moving story about love, loss and literature. It follows the days of José Saramago, the Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist, and his wife, Pilar del Rio. The film shows their whirlwind life of international travel, his passion for completing his masterpiece, "The Elephant's Journey" and how their love quietly sustains them throughout. "Jose and Pilar" reveals the hidden Saramago, unravels any preconceived notions about him, and proves that genius and simplicity are indeed compatible. It is a funny and touching portrait on the endurance of the artistic spirit. A glimpse into the life of one of the greatest creators of the 20th century, it shows us that, as Saramago says, "There is always another way to say everything." Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The days of José Saramago and Pilar del Rio. See more »


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Release Date:

April 2012 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

José y Pilar  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


Portugal's official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards 2012. See more »


José Saramago: Chaos is an order to decipher.
See more »


La vie en rose
Written by David Santos
Performed by Noiserv
See more »

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User Reviews

crossed roads
17 August 2011 | by (Porto, Portugal) – See all my reviews

It's so hard to make an engaging documentary. The usual process is to make the facts of stories you're supposed to be told into a coherent narrative line, even if in reality that line isn't so clear. That will provide the audiences with a story, something to follow. But how you follow that story is usually in a more external way than how you watch fiction, because in documentary you can't or won't have the same devices to fold you into the thing. You have always that trick on reenact some stuff, if the theme is history. That's lame to me, and lazy.

Now here you have something really interesting. The film shows us countless excerpts of the lives of the 2 protagonists throughout the course of about 2 years. The film is presented as a reportage, more than a documentary, meaning that images are what you make of it, words come up apparently loosely. No bent narrative is delivered to you. Or so it seems.

Underneath this apparently random display of images, there's a subtle layered structure. The life of the couple José/Pilar in the period of the film mapped to the story of the elephant in the book Saramago is writing. The story that this film displays mapped into the larger story of Saramago's life, with all its weight in the story of literature and Portuguese culture, as we get it in between the lines in several moments of the narrative. The whole idea of journey and encounter mapped into the love story of José and Pilar.

And ultimately, as the title denounces, that story is central here. The idea of a pair of people bound by the art of one of them, who chooses to share it, allow the other half to be a part of it. Live as one, that's the beautiful part of the story. I'm glad they chose to share a bit of that story with as, by allowing us to get into it.

His art matters. He is a humanist, has profound ideas, truly powerful ideas, and changed language, invented a new way on which people can express.

There is one moment when the metaphor for journey mapped into people's lives is perfect: in Saramago's hometown, one street has his name, another street which crosses the other one has her name. Crossed paths.

My opinion: 4/5


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