On September 27, 1810, the French troops commanded by Marshal Massena, were defeated in the Serra do Buçaco by the Anglo-Portuguese army of general Wellington. Despite the victory, ... See full summary »
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Manoel de Oliveira
Filipa de Almeida,
On September 27, 1810, the French troops commanded by Marshal Massena, were defeated in the Serra do Buçaco by the Anglo-Portuguese army of general Wellington. Despite the victory, Portuguese and British are forced to retreat from the enemy, numerically superior, in order to attract them to Torres Vedras, where Wellington had built fortified lines hardly surmountable. Simultaneously, the Anglo-Portuguese command organizes the evacuation of the entire territory between the battlefield and the lines of Torres Vedras, a gigantic burned land operation, which prevents the French from collecting supplies. This is the setting for the adventures of a multitude of characters from all social backgrounds - soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, young and old - to the daily routine torn by war and dragged through hills and valleys, between ruined villages, charred forests and devastated crops.Highly persecuted by the French, already tormented by an unmerciful weather, the mass of ... Written by
I rent the DVD in hope of getting a movie on Napoleonic warfare and the Portuguese campaign. Actually, this is a collection of soap opera sketches set against the grim background of the general evacuation brought about by the French advance.
This bleak background provides the contrasting point to the light, humorous, often implausible and generally unhistorical approach that characterizes the sketches. They are centered on different individuals involved in the evacuation and they bear an unmistakable (and irritating to me) feminine touch. The character of Wellington is not made an exception and the filmmakers make no attempt to portray his personality or his military abilities.
Another annoying touch is that the French are portrayed as involved in all kinds of base butchery. These acts of cruelty are partly exaggerated; for the part that they are true, no attempt is made to explain that this was the normal trend in this era and that the English and the Portuguese behaved in exactly the same way. Historical exactness plays no part in the movie; since all characters are English or Portuguese and they are presented sympathetically, the director needed some bad guys on the other side of the pond.
In conclusion: a successful attempt at duplicating American soap operas set against a historical background. Go to the box office if you are interested in comedy; don't go if you have any serious penchant for history.
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