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, ...
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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
Much better than most Portuguese films, it still has rough edges to file.
"As Linhas de Wellington" is a war drama made, in co-production, by Portugal and France, and portrays the final phase of the French Invasions in Portugal. Defeated in the Battle of Bussaco, the soldiers of the French general Massena continue towards Lisbon, forcing the Anglo-Portuguese armies to retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras, a massive set of artillery fortifications and entrenched paths designed not to let the invader pass, and also, protect a possible British withdrawal from the country. Without means and weapons to force the passage, Massena will come to give up the invasion, retreating to Spain, months later, always chased by British soldiers.
Well, I tend to be a little pessimistic about Portuguese cinema, but considering the big budget of the film and the big names involved in the cast I decided to give it a try. And, I confess, I was impressed by the quality of the final product, much higher than normal for Portuguese cinema.
Let's first talk about the technical details of the film, which I think is one of its strongest points. In fact, it is rare for a film in Portugal to have such good production values. Here we have an excellent photograph, impeccable scenery, excellent costumes and makeup, faithful to the period portrayed, a good job of filming and editing and also a very good soundtrack, which is in your ear. It is perfectly possible to see where so much money has been spent, and well spent. I think the film is a little dark, in that gray is a very present color in photography, but I think it combined well with the plot and ambience of the film.
Another point where the film exceeded my expectations was the cast and their work. The most resonant name is that of John Malkovich, an actor twice nominated for Oscar, well known in Hollywood and who has resided in Portugal for some years. Being the cast's most resonant name, it should have a presence and protagonism in the plot ... but the script is limited to showing Wellington discussing with his painter, in philosophical ramblings about a steak or in moments of meditation, with lighted candles. It is manifestly little work for an actor like Malkovich, which can be a nonsense, depending on the money he earned from the film. Not to mention that, unlike Malkovich, Wellington was younger and had short hair. Also other big names, like Isabelle Huppert, Melvil Poupaud, Catherine Deneuve and her daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, only appear in cameo. That is, the great actors who could boost the film with their talent and give the Portuguese cast something to learn are rarely used, they just appear and help the film to sell. That is, to say the least, stupid.
The real cast, which really appears and represents, is composed of a hard core where we see good Portuguese actors like Nuno Lopes (a sergeant from a Portuguese Battalion of Hunters), Marisa Paredes (a Spanish widow), Carloto Cotta (a Portuguese officer) , Victoria Guerra (a fiery Englishman), Marcello Urgeghe (a British officer), Jemima West (the bride of an English officer who dies in the conflict), Miguel Borges (a usurer merchant), Filipe Vargas (an aristocrat in search of his missing wife ), Adriano Luz (a Portuguese poet, initially at the side of the French, who disappoints and deserts to fight on the Portuguese side) Elsa Zylberstein (a nun), Albano Jerónimo (a priest who takes up arms against the French), Joana de Verona (a woman struggling to avenge her son's death and the abuses she suffered), Gonçalo Waddington (a spy), Maria João Bastos (the aristocrat's wife) and Paulo Pires (a military officer). Everyone was reasonably well, but Nuno Lopes, Jemima West, Adriano Luz and Albano Jerónimo deserve special congratulations for their good work. I would also highlight Joana de Verona, to whom the film reserves one of the most suffered and dramatic characters. Victoria Guerra also does a good job and has an excellent English accent, but the scenes where she appears naked are expendable and could have been cut, had it not been for the bad Portuguese habit of involving sex in everything.
Anyone who expects to see a war film, or a historical film, will certainly be disappointed. The historical personages are limited to appearing fleetingly, the historical facts are portrayed, but the film is not about them. We hardly see a fight scene, with the exception of a few skirmishes. It is a film about ordinary people, whom the war deeply affects, and about their personal dramas. Seen in this light, it is a competent film, which has more quality than the garbage that Portuguese cinema usually presents. But it is far from perfect and there is an underuse of notable actors that is not understood, except for possible issues related to the fee to be paid.
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