De Oliveira directs veteran cast in Gebo and the Shadow
by Domenico La Porta
- Manoel de Oliveira's classical yet successful cinematic adaptation of Raul Brandão's play screened out of competition at the last Venice Film Festival.
If you're going to make a film disregarding all codes of modern filmmaking, then it might as well be legitimately put together by the elder of European filmmakers, the unchanging Manoel de Oliveira, who screened his latest film out of competition at the 69th Venice Film Festival. The director was 15 years old when Gebo and the Shadow, a play by fellow Portuguese Raul Brandão, was first performed in a Portuguese theatre. Nine decades later, his cinematic adaptation of the play owns each wrinkle on the faces of his veteran actors Michael Lonsdale, Claudia Cardinale, and Jeanne Moreau who impeccably and accurately convey the weight of a lifetime.
Gebo and the Shadow [+see also:
film profile] all takes place in a single location. With the exception of two or three shots, all the action takes place in the living room of a small home plunged in abject poverty. In its small cast, representatives of the old school act beside a younger generation of actors including Ricardo Trêpa, the director's grandson. Trêpa plays João, son of Gebo (Lonsdale) and Doroteia (Cardinale), who after eight years of absence returns to the home that his parents share with Sofia (Leonor Silveira), the wife he has left behind. His mother, previously devastated by his absence, finds comfort in his return, despite it being inauspicious. Gebo decides to bear the brunt of his ungrateful son's mischief alone. The old man wants to protect his wife from renewed grief that, according to him, she could not bear...
It's a story from a long time ago, where and when we do not know. A certain timelessness permeates this Portuguese port town whose inhabitants speak French, as does a classical representation of tragedy that gives the story the dimension of a fable in which João represents evil both in its philosophical and religious mentions. This character perverts a family by plunging it into misery and grief, just as the shadow he represents eats away at the world of men. It's a dark and nihilist statement, even if it allows others to sacrifice themselves through pure altruism, which sadly is misplaced.
Beyond its careful photography, sparing mise-en-scene, and acting that - quite aptly - makes the audience feel the weight of time, Manoel de Oliveira once again shows his ability to impose a style that has evolved very little since the beginning of his career and that is still suitable for stories rooted in the original ground of dramatic arts.
(Translated from French)
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