Contrato (2009)

“Contrato” (2009)



Ethic and Aestethics

It’s hard to feel more sad with a film than what i am with this. I wanted so much that this was at least watchable, but i really wish that it could grasp the dimension of the literature that supports it. This is a terribly blind film, which i won’t forget, for the worst reasons.

Dinis Machado was a remarkable man. A man who lived and, incidentally, wrote. He was intelligent and his writings, besides Molero, always fill the gaps they are supposed to fill. He knew that detective stories, and noir films, are about how you build the story, not about the story itself. We shouldn’t care (and we don’t) about characters in a noir film besides the role they play in the narrative. They are abstract beings, there to serve a purpose, outside of their existence as characters. How happy i am when i read Machado, how well and ironically he knew that it was indifferent that he signed McShade or Donald the Duck. How well he distinguished between the bones and the flesh.

Now, if any other guy was involved in this dreadful project, i wouldn’t mind too much. I am used to the common inability to transport the deepness of certain writers to the medium of cinema, in fact that’s quite a remarkable achievement when it is well done. But it embarrasses me as a viewer to see the remarkable Nicolau Breyner fail totally in this task. He is a man who understands acting in cinema as only a very restrict group of people in Portugal does. He clearly doesn’t understand direction, he clearly doesn’t control the big arch of the narrative dynamic, and the proof is that the very few watchable moments in this mess are centered around tiny pieces of good performances (topped by his own). He builds a place for his own character to show as the neglected mind, a man who had to live on aesthetics to secretly enjoy his own ethics. How close that is to the life of many Portuguese good actors. Not everything is a waste though, and i’m glad that Cláudia Vieira turned out to be nice, without being an actress. She might do well in a good project.

The film is based in a story based in Don Quijote. This book is a monument, Dinis Machado understood it, as well as many generations of writers who rooted their writing on what Cervantes materialized. Borges certainly did and so did Cortázar – despite Machado is more connected to the first, and find him much more close to the second. Anyway, Borges’s ideas of writing about writing (lead to infinite proportions), stories about storytelling are the waters where Machado successfully made his dives. That’s where the memories of this hit-man would fit, that’s the symbolic importance of the antique in this film. It’s not only about a story, it’s about the stories it is about. Think about it. It’s not only the aesthetics of the story that is at question. Fundamentally, this has to do with the ethics and meanings of storytelling. Georgios Thanatos talks about it, it’s one of the only pieces of dialogue which actually contemplates anything that matters in this stew of war sick reminiscences, skin waste and useless killings. How could Nicolau Breyner miss it?

Any Portuguese average spectator will dismiss this commentary as useless, pseudo intellectual and will stand for that position based on the fact that i am evaluating a piece of entertainment as if it was a “serious” piece of film-making. Well, as an advance, before you vote “no” in IMDb, i have to say that i believe there’s no entertainment without hidden serious thinking behind it. Now vote No.

Incidentally, last Octobre i was outside the country and didn’t realize that Dinis Machado passed away in that month. I only found out reading about this film. Double sadness. He was around, now he’s not. This is a sad day in my film watching life.

My opinion: 1/5

This comment on IMDb


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