Country: Portugal, Germany, Brazil, France
Director: Miguel Gomes
Henrique Espírito Santo
A KVIFF viewing, the third feature-length work from Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, which was among the contenders for the Golden Bear in Berlin earlier this year, and wound up winning the FIPRESCI Prize and Alfred Bauer Award.
The film is entirely in Black & White, which has a deceiving anachronism effect and injects an appeasing vigor to enliven the storyline. With being equally divided into two parts, the first half is the contemporary story between a middle-aged woman, Pillar and her senior neighbor Aurora (who is live alone with her black servant Santa, and strongly believes her estranged daughter and Santa are plotting against her); the second half is completely B&W silent, with an elaborate voiceover from Aurora’s former lover Ventura, revealing a secret history about he and Aurora’s love affair back in Africa half an century ago. It is a distinctively interesting composition, which contributes a pleasant illusion that we were watching a double-feature.
But by comparison, the first part is more austere and compelling while the second part is basically about a superfluously hackneyed liaison between a married woman and a romantic womanizer, the only worthiness is that it is between two white people in Africa, and if one intends to get some in-depth probe about the continent and its people, the film could hardly suffices this curiosity.
Between the female correlation in the first part, Pilar has a manifest momentum to propel the storyline, and ruefully there will not be a third paragraph to recount her story out of the lightly over-hyped second part, her story behind might own more worth to be revisited and explored. Teresa Madruga and Laura Soveral are spellbinding during their screen time, if only the second half could be reinterpreted in another way, the film could have been a fabulous essay about love, aging and mystery behind everyone’s usual representation.
PS: it will be a much more gratifying viewing experience if one has watched F.W. Murnau’s TABU: A STORY OF THE SOUTH SEAS (1931) before, since the second part is a dedicative homage to the film, sadly I haven’t watched that, which definitely mar my appreciation in certain degree.