‘Letters from War’ (‘Cartas da guerra’): Berlin Review

Ivo M. Ferreira’s third underline stars Miguel Nunes as a immature Antonio Lobo Antunes, a fight medic who wrote a suggested association before apropos a distinguished novelist.

A Portuguese fight medic stationed in 1971 Angola — afterwards Portuguese East Africa, still 4 years divided from autonomy — suffers a serious box of saudade in Letters from War (Cartas da Guerra), a third and by distant many desirous film from writer-director Ivo M. Ferreira (April Showers). The turn here is that a suggested association refers to a tangible wartime letters of Antonio Lobo Antunes, who would after turn one of Portugal’s many distinguished novelists. In a film, however, he’s simply a immature infantryman struggling with a deficiency of his profound (first) wife, who’s behind in Portugal, and, to a obtuse extent, his domestic ideas, that keep shifting to a left a some-more a Portuguese Colonial War drags on. 

Shot in frail black-and-white on plcae in Angola, this film can’t assistance yet remember Tabu by Ferreira’s co-worker and compatriot Miguel Gomes, that was also constructed by O som e a furia and that also had a universe premiere in a Berlin competition. However, this is in many ways a some-more normal arthouse film that combines Antunes’s letters, listened in a voice-over, with images that recreate, rather convincingly and on an considerable scale, a life of a Portuguese army alloy in Africa. Though festivals will be prepared takers, this will be a worse tender commercially, generally in territories where Antunes isn’t a name author.

Antonio (Miguel Nunes) is initial spied being shipped over to Angola. It takes a while for a film to settle that one of a soldiers’ faces is his, suggesting he’s one male among many, all with identical stories. Except in a opening and shutting scenes, all of Antonio’s letters are review by a womanlike voice, presumably that of his spouse, Maria José (actress Margarida Vila-Nova, a director’s wife), who is glimpsed in what feels some-more like a hectic imagination of Antonio than scenes from her tangible life. Unlike a film like Margarida Cardoso’s The Murmuring Coast (2004), formed on a novel about a Portuguese in Mozambique by Lidia Jorge, there’s no clarity of womanlike group here, as Ferreira sticks rigidly to Antunes’s viewpoint throughout.

The writing, credited to a executive and Edgar Medina, seems to have been some-more of an modifying job, determining on that (parts of which) letters to embody and afterwards how to illustrate them. In general, a screenwriters seem some-more meddlesome in a protagonist’s personal struggles — that combine especially on a fact he’s distant divided from home for months on finish and misses his mom and their initial child that she’s carrying — than with his elaborating ideas on politics.

Quite early on, Antonio explains in one of his letters that he’s commencement to comprehend he “can’t live yet a domestic conscience” and that he’s gradually branch some-more and some-more into a leftie. He plays chess with a Captain (Joao Pedro Vaz) who’s been partial of a antithesis and who competence have shabby his thinking, yet unfortunately a film doesn’t tackle politics head-on unequivocally mostly or meaningfully adequate to unequivocally get a clarity of Antonio’s domestic transformation. There are some visible suggestions, such as politician’s mural dumped in a toilet, and Antonio’s rather deceptive acknowledgment that “being here is eating a core of my soul,” yet he also admits to “understanding Che Guevara” and a fad of survival, that seems to protest a suspicion that “war turns us all into insects,” as he explains in most a same breath.

Did Antunes not categorically try his flourishing domestic demur some-more or some-more deeply in his letters since he insincere his mom wouldn’t be meddlesome in (his) politics, or did Ferreira and Medina simply confirm to combine on his personal struggles since they suspicion they were some-more engaging or simply relatable? It’s tough to tell, yet a fact this doubt arises during all does exhibit a boundary of this kind of biopic that follows a source element so closely. (There are not that many scenes with unchanging dialogues between a soldiers rather than a ubiquitous voice-over.)

That said, a attribute between a determined author and a absent mom of his (future) firstborn comes opposite as an heated event even when only seen and listened from one side. It is most a feature-length painting of a (untranslatable) judgment of saudade, that is a form of yearning for something or someone that isn’t there and can’t be there. The film’s highlight, as good as a good clarity of how unenlightened and effective Antunes’ poetry can be, is a cascade of illusory descriptions of his desired one that advise an increasingly heated form of lovemaking only by words. (In Tabu, Gomes practical a judgment of saudade to a incomparable post-colonial context as well, that is most reduction a box here.) Perhaps surprisingly, Antonio is also unequivocally straightforward about being offering other women some-more than once in Angola; his rather dry acknowledgment that dual Portuguese chanteuses “were a initial white women I’ve seen in 3 months” most drips with blue-balled agony. 

Nunes, who became famous as a TV actor, has a flattering face yet doesn’t always conduct to compare a power of his character’s prose, yet this can during slightest partly be blamed on a fact he doesn’t have most approach discourse he can tumble behind on to advise his character’s transformation. More considerable is a scale of a production, that feels rather vast for an arthouse plan and that is prisoner by cinematographer Joao Ribeiro in sinuously choreographed shots.  

Production companies: O som e a furia, Shortcuts International

Cast: Miguel Nunes, Margarida Vila-Nova, Ricardo Pereira, Joao Pedro Vaz, Simao Cayatte, Isac Graca, Francisco Hestnes Ferrreira

Director: Ivo M. Ferreira

Screenplay: Ivo M. Ferreira, Edgar Medina, formed on a book D’Este Viver Aqui Neste Papel Descripto, Cartas da Guerra by Antonio Lobo Antunes

Producers: Luis Urbano, Sandro Aguilar

Co-producers: Georges Schoucair, Michel Merkt

Director of photography: Joao Ribeiro

Production designer: Nuno G. Mello

Costume designer: Lucha d’Orey

Editor: Sandro Aguilar

Sales: The Match Factory


No rating, 105 minutes