The psychological and hallucinatory strains of war befall a young Portuguese soldier lost in the jungles of Mozambique in WWI.
Dir. Joao Nuno Pinto
2020 | Portugal | Drama/War | 125 mins | Portuguese
Not rated – likely to be at least M18 for some violence, nudity and sexual scene
Cast: Joao Nunes Monteiro, Joao Lagarto, Filipe Duarte
Plot: A Portugese soldier gets lost in the African jungle, in 1917.
Awards: Nom. for Big Screen Award (Rotterdam)
International Sales: Alfama Films
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Opening the 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam, Mosquito is the second feature by Joao Nuno Pinto, whose first film, America, came ten years ago.
I love movies about war, so Mosquito attracted me from the get-go, but what fascinated me more were its setting and perspective—a WWI picture set in Africa that is told from the point-of-view of a Portuguese soldier—which have rarely been dramatised.
Pinto’s work is not outstanding by any measure, but it is an interesting one that draws influences from more surreal exponents of the genre, such as Apocalypse Now (1979) and perhaps even as recently as Monos (2019).
But while those films decidedly go for the jugular and are more epic and visionary, Mosquito is a far more psychologically intimate piece that follows Zacarias (Joao Nunes Monteiro in a physically challenging performance) who becomes lost in the jungles of Mozambique after his company advanced without him.
Pinto produces a number of hallucinatory moments as Zacarias’ solo journey in the heat without food and water in an unknown land becomes a battle with his own sanity.
He meets several people, including a wandering white man, a German enemy, and in some of the film’s more engaging scenes, a rendezvous with a group of native women and their children, who take him as a slave.
Pinto jumbles the timeline up, intercutting all of these to reflect an increasingly fragmentary existence, but sometimes at the expense of narrative immersion.
Mosquito is a decent take on the war experience from an old-world colonial perspective; in fact, its opening scene of white Portuguese soldiers disembarking from their ship after a long voyage, and onto the backs of black native men who carry them to shore is striking and symbolic.
However, the film’s familiar trappings might not impress more experienced arthouse viewers.