Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: Gebo et l’ombre
France/Portugal, 2012. Instituto do Cinema e do Audiovisual, O Som e a Furia, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee, MACT Productions, Canal+, Cine+, La Région Île-de-France, Radiotelevisão Portuguesa. Screenplay by Manoel de Oliveira, based on the play by Raul Brandão. Cinematography by Renato Berta. Produced by Sandro Aguilar, Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Martine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Luís Urbano. Production Design by Christian Marti. Costume Design by Adelaide Maria Trepa. Film Editing by Valerie Loiseleux.
Making his final feature film at the astonishing age of 103, Manoel de Oliveira delivers another staid, pensive adaptation from classic literature, this time the play by ex-military officer turned nationally lauded writer Raul Brandão. A modest home in a port town is the residence of a family trapped in the anguish of an absence: aging businessman Michael Lonsdale, his wife Claudia Cardinale and their daughter in law Leonor Silveira have been living together since Silveira’s husband (Ricardo Trêpa, the director’s grandson) went missing eight years earlier. Rumors abound that Trepa is still alive and is responsible for a series of robberies reported around town, but Lonsdale does his best to keep the information from his wife, knowing that it would kill her to compromise the unreasonable ideal that she has always held her son to.
On the first night that this story takes place, the young man returns and reveals himself to have become a thoughtless and rash personality, at odds with the careful, understated anguish of the people around him. A visit from two friends, one of them played by an elegant Jeanne Moreau, reveals that Lonsdale is looking after a great deal of money for an economic organization, the bag of cash kept under lock and key in the house, which will be a point of temptation and eventual catharsis for the characters by the story’s bitter end.
There’s no escaping misery, Lonsdale says, when it is suggested that the family pack up and run away, and there’s no escaping the hold of these characters despite the soporific pace of this beautifully elegaic swan song. As with many of the filmmaker’s last films, it plays out in simple but pointed exchanges, the majority of it takes place not only in one room but mostly from only two camera set-ups, but the feeling these images create, with the gorgeous glow of the candle emanating light and warmth from the centre, is one of controlled, intelligent intensity. De Oliveira wasn’t down for the count after making this one, he completed four more shorts and still had plans for future projects upon his death at 106.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2012