Amor de Perdicão
AMOR DE PERDICãO
Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Production: Instituto Portuguese de Cinema; color, originally shot in 16mm; running time: 260 minutes. Released 1978. Filmed in Portugal.
Producer: Anabela Goncaldes; screenplay: Manoel de Oliveira, from the novel by Camilo Castelo Branco; photography: Manuel Costa e Silva; editor: Soldeig Nordlund; art director: Antonio Casmiro; music: João Paes and Handel.
Cast: Antonio Sequeira Lopes (Simão Botelho); Cristina Hauser (Tereza); Elsa Wallencamp (Mariana da Cruz); Antonio Costa (Juao de Cruz); Pedro Dinheiro and Manuela de Melo (Narrators).
Manoel de Oliveira, Lisbon, 1981.
Franca, J. A., and others, Introdução à de M. de Oliveira, Lisbon, 1982.
Desclimont, B., in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), series 23, 1979.
Daney, S., "Manoel de Oliveira and Amour de perdition," in Cahiersdu Cinéma (Paris), June 1979.
Bassan, R., in Ecran (Paris), 15 June 1979.
Bonnet, J. C., in Cinématographe (Paris), July 1979.
Frenais, J., in Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1979.
Bachellier, E., in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1979.
Lopes, João, "O voto de Simão e Teresa," in Diário de Noticias (Lisbon), November 1979.
Ramasse, F., "M. de Oliveira: Le Passé et le present," in Positif (Paris), March 1980.
Holloway, D., in Variety (New York), 15 October 1980.
Alnaee, K., "Det stillstående kamera," in Film & Kino (Oslo), no. 4, 1981.
Zunsunegui, S., "Artificio, enunciácion, emocion: La obra de M. de Oliveira," in Contracampo (Madrid), January 1981.
Clarens, C., "Manoel de Oliveira and Doomed Love," in FilmComment (New York), May-June 1981.
Gillett, John, "Manoel de Oliveira," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1981.
Tesson, C., and J. C. Biette, interview with Oliveira, in Cahiers duCinéma (Paris), October 1981.
Fonseca, M. S., "M. de Oliveira, o cinema e a crueldade," in Expresso (Lisbon), October 1981.
Bonnet, J. C., and E. Decaux, interview with Oliveira, in Cinématographe (Paris), November 1981.
Coelho, E. P., "Amor de perdicao," in Revue Belge du Cinéma (Brussels), no. 26, 1989.
Scarpetta, Guy & Rollet, Sylvie, "Manoel de Oliveira," in Positif (Paris), September 1998.
Avant-Scène Cinéma, January-February 1999.
* * *
At the age of 70 Manoel de Oliveira completed Amor de perdicão, a 260-minute version of Camilo Castelo Branco's 19th-century, hyper-romantic novel of the same name. It was the twelfth film in the career of Portugal's most famous filmmaker, a career which began in 1931.
As meticulously as the novel, the film renders events in a procession of extremely long sequence-shots, often between five and ten minutes each. Amor de perdicão consciously occupies a precarious historical position: in a style wholly characteristic of the advanced cinema of the 1970s, with a startling original use of the zoom lens, it depicts events of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, mediated by the deliberately anachronistic language of the 1861 novel. The film resonates with allusions to the Iberian pictorial tradition (Velázquez and Goya are the most obvious references), yet it calls attention to the modalities of camera position, shot duration, illusionary movement created by the zoom, and the artificiality of its museum-like sets and occasional painted backdrops. Oliveira is indebted to the major historical films of the previous decade, especially La Prise du pouvoir de Louis XIV, Il gattopardo, and Barry Lyndon in his use of the zoom and his historical distanciation, but he is far more systematic and abstract than his major predecessors. More obviously, he follows Robert Bresson in his cool resistance to imitating the histrionics of the text he adapts; but he avoids the truly radical deflation of drama typical of the later films of Straub and Huillet. Yet, perhaps he has learned something from their early work; for the breathtaking pace with which the Botelho family history is recounted, in elliptical jumps, in the first half hour of the film, recalls the most disorienting moments of Nicht versont. The novel and the film recount the miseries of the star-crossed lovers, Simão Botelho and his neighbor Tereza, whose father forbids their marriage because of a family feud. In an intricate plot, which would be long in summary, Simão goes to jail for killing the man Tereza's father wants her to marry. In jail he is attended by the peasant girl, Mariana da Cruz, whose devotion to him takes the form of obsessive love. Eventually Simão dies en route to the Indies, as a penal worker; Tereza, already withdrawn into a convent, dies as his boat passes; and Mariana jumps overboard to her death. Only Oliveira's genius transmutes this morbid excess into a cinema of sustained beauty and restraint.
Though he shot the film in 16mm because he couldn't afford 35mm for the first time in his career, he exploited the loss of definition and the grain brilliantly. His compositions are consistently artificial, evoking enlarged indoor spaces by posing the characters far from the camera or, following the examples of Velázquez's Las Meninas, using a mirror to reflect offscreen depths. The continual interlacing of the voice-overs of narrators Simão and Tereza bring a stylistic device already abstracted by Bresson and Hanoun to a new level of intensity and abstraction.
The very duration of the film, its plethora of information spread over so many nearly static compositions, the extended meditation on confinement, and the beauty of its deliberate rhythms and compositions make Amor de perdicão one of the most impressive films of the 1970s, and one of the very greatest historical fiction films.
—P. Adams Sitney