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136 min. Portuguese, German.

His home is war. Her home is Portugal. Yet the young, newly married wife of Lord von Ketten is determined to make her husband’s family abode, an inhospitable castle on a cliff in northern Italy, into her home. When he sets off to battle with his men and tries to send her back to her parents, she decides to stay. Over the eleven long years he stays away, she insists to her relatives on their rare visits that this is where she belongs, even as they see the house as her mausoleum and lament her loneliness. And she does indeed carve out a life for herself here. She reads, sings, plays music, dances, swims and rides in the forest. She also rears a young wolf to which she is closer than to her two sons – or at least that’s what’s suggested by this adaptation of Robert Musil’s novella “The Portuguese Woman”, which is set in the Middle Ages and features magnificent costumes and opulent images captured by the elegant, gliding camerawork. The animals are positioned in conspicuous fashion, as if they stem from somewhere else, just like the figure of Ingrid Caven in a shoulder-less evening gown cooing songs or reciting Walther von der Vogelweide in the courtyard. Tandaradei! (Birgit Kohler)

Rita Azevedo Gomes was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1952. She started studying fine arts in Lisbon before switching over to film and theatre. In 1990, she directed her first feature-length film, O Som da Terra a Tremer. Besides working as a filmmaker, Rita Azevedo Gomes also works as exhibition curator at the Cinemateca Portuguesa in Lisbon.

In a different place, at a different time

Reality is too complex, it is stories that give it shape. Life’s reflection is sometimes more interesting than life itself. Here, as in my previous films, everything begins in my imagination before becoming part of my own life, where it stays long after the film is finished.
In some way, this relates to Robert Musil’s story, which is enigmatic and free of psychology. The scriptwriter Agustina Bessa Luís, writing without hesitation, leaves very concrete traces in the fathomless spaces of Musil’s novella, though without saying everything, thus stoking our fascination.
I find the unspoken very seductive. Everything that goes on between the Portuguese woman and her husband relies on the unspoken. No one knows for certain whether they really existed. But that’s actually without consequence. This story, set in a specific period of history and involving the Bishopric of Trent, confronts us with a series of facts that in many ways reflect to our own times – provided that we don’t regard our ancestors as different to us, just living in a different place, at a different time. As Musil wrote in “The Man Without Qualities”, recognising the Gothic man or the ancient Greek man in the man of modern civilisation is probably easier than we think.
I am not interested in where things come from, only in where I can take them. If it is true that filmmakers only make one film again and again throughout their life, then it is also true – at least in my case – that they keep breaking that film into a thousand pieces in order to remake it differently. From that perspective, I will always be an apprentice.
I am not moved by historical reconstructions. I do not wish to restore the past, especially one that is so remote. I do not even think that is possible, or makes sense. It is specifically the contemporary aspects of Musil’s text that appeal to me.
Films save nothing. We are not capable of saving ourselves, that is beyond doubt. At a time like today, when the outside world bears its weight upon our language, crushing our tongues like the ox from the idiom and blending all discourses together, when intelligent people and charlatans use the same formulas with only minor differences, I believe that A PORTUGUESA will speak for itself.
I am interested in all that is decisive in life, all that challenges fate and exceeds our understanding. As Musil wrote, human greatness is rooted in irrationality. If I film a tree, a river or a road, then that is the only thing I want to understand and express. (Rita Azevedo Gomes)

Production Rita Azevedo Gomes, António Câmara Manuel. Production companies Basilisco Filmes (Cascais, Portugal), Duplacena (Lisbon, Portugal). Written and directed by Rita Azevedo Gomes. Dialogue Agustina Bessa-Luís. Cinematography Acácio de Almeida. Editing Rita Azevedo Gomes. Music José Mário Branco. Sound design Olivier Blanc. Sound António Porém Pires, Tiago Matos. Production design Roberta Azevedo Gomes, Elsa Bruxelas. Costumes Rute Correia, Tânia Franco. Make-up Raquel Laranjo. With Clara Riedenstein (The Portuguese Woman), Marcello Urgeghe (Von Ketten), Ingrid Caven (Wonderer), Rita Durão (Moorish Slave), Pierre Léon (Old Servant), João Vicente (Pero Lobato), Luna Picolli-Truffaut (Antonie), Manuela de Freitas (Seer), Alexandre Alves Costa (Trent's Bishop), Fernando Rodrigues (Ferant).

World sales Basilisco Filmes
Premiere November 11, 2018, Mar del Plata Film Festival


1990: O Som da Terra a Tremer / The Sound of the Earth Shaking (93 min.). 1996: O Cinema Vai ao Teatro / Cinema Goes to the Theatre (26 min.). 1998: Intromissões: Parabéns Manoel de Oliveira / Intromissions: Congratulations Manoel de Oliveira (55 min.). 1999: King Arthur (30 min.). 2001: Frágil Como o Mundo / Fragile as the World (91 min.). 2003: Altar (72 min.). 2005: A Conquista de Faro / The Conquest of Faro (33 min.). 2007: A 15ª Pedra: Manoel de Oliveira e João Bénard da Costa em Conversa / The 15th Stone: Manoel de Oliveira and João Bénard da Costa in Conversation (117 min.). 2009: A Colecção Invisível / The Invisible Collection (56 min.). 2011: A Vingança de uma Mulher / A Woman’s Revenge (100 min.). 2016: Correspondências / Correspondences (145 min.). 2018: A Portuguesa / The Portuguese Woman.

Photo: © Basilisco Filmes

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