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VENICE 2010 Horizons / Portugal

Nicolau’s philosophizing pirates

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Nicolau’s philosophizing pirates

The ambitions, merits and limits of Portuguese director João Nicolau can be summed up by the words with which the director accompanies his debut feature, The Sword and the Rose [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
: not just a simple director’s note, but an “apocryphal document belonging to the archives of the Rose”, an obscure rather than fascinating list of acronyms “whose meaning remains unknown”, of cosmic eggs, and “quark with raspberry jam”.

The start of the film, on its first screening in competition in the Horizons section, even managed to wrench some applause from the audience, who were deceived by a “musical” duet between protagonist Manuel and the unrelenting tax collector. Viewers felt some hope for a while, before realising they were watching a never-ending (142-minute-long) philosophisizing moral parable, about a young tidiness obsessive (Manuel Mesquita) who, after leaving his cat Maradona with a friend (at this point somebody was still laughing), decides to board a 15th-century boat and live the life of a pirate.

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The film’s pace is exasperating, and the lack of financial means is not offset by a wealth of inventiveness (unlike in Švankmajer’s Surviving Life [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, an example of low-budget creativity seen here at the Mostra). Nicolau’s first short films – Song of Love and Health and Bird of Prey – won accolades across the world: his transition to features has not been successful.

(Translated from Italian)

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