This quaint self-reflective piece by Oliveira doesn’t always work, but it is an introspective glimpse into the filmmaker’s mind, his life experiences and awareness of his mortality.
Plot: The director, Manoel de Oliveira, is in the Porto house where he has lived for decades, preparing to leave due to mounting debts.
Awards: Official Selection (Cannes)
Source: Instituto Portugues de Cinema
Subject Matter: Moderate – Filmmaking, Personal Life
Narrative Style: Elliptical
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Niche Arthouse
As a portrait of an artist, Visit, or Memories and Confessions should interest arthouse cinephiles who are either already familiar with or have not sampled any of the works from the late Portuguese master filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira.
It is an introduction to the man himself, made in such a way as if someone else, a ghostly presence perhaps, is filming him in his house. His house, a character on its own, is ‘visited’ by two unknown persons who traverse and shoot the beautiful interiors, lined with old photographs and probably even older furniture.
These segments, which aren’t entirely compelling, are intercut with Oliveira in his room where he had been writing film treatments for nearly four decades. He speaks to the camera, telling us about his family, his ancestors, life in Portugal, political oppression, his work and fellow comrades in the filmmaking fraternity.
“There’s nobody here. There never was.”
It’s a highly personal video essay of sorts, yet there is something cinematic about this quaint self-reflective piece, such as his use of the whirling projector (the sound of which is sometimes laid over other scenes) where he screens for us some shorts he had made of his hometown.
His use of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in bits and pieces, also gives us a sense that the film is a reverie, as we take an introspective glimpse into the filmmaker’s mind.
Oliveira insisted that this film be shown only after his passing—little did folks at the time know that he would live up to 106 (he made this in 1982 when he was 74 and acutely aware of his mortality).