O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra (2007)

“O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra” (2007)



Start with the book. It was not actually supposed to be assembled as a book, instead being worth following as a silly succession of events, week by week (the film makes that clear) Within that specific. intention, i suppose it was a success, a kind of “war of the worlds” effect, placed in the dumb still romantic bourgeois in Lisbon’s 800’s. It worked because it directly addressed the intellectual dispute between Eça’s progressive group and the older useless romantic elite. And it worked because it fed the lust for scandal of the decadent owners of the money.

But assembled as a book, drags. The writing was way less focused than pretty much anything from both the authors, probably because the texts were produced at journalistic rhythm. The story is poorly balanced, even though i didn’t feel in the book the kind of divergence between both authors as is hinted in the film. So, anything else by Eça or Ramalho is probably better than this book. But we take it for the story that surrounds it.

Than we have this film. It is, as stated by the director and co-writer, not the story of the book, but the story of the story of the book. Book/film, within the film. This is interesting, and i think “mistério…” could not have been made without taking to consideration the larger framing of the book in its context. It’s great fun with that context, it’s useless without it. So, i think the premises to the film is focused and interesting.

But than, to many liberties are taken in the adaptation, and nearly any goes in favour to make the “story of the story” more apt for modern cinematographic imaginations. In many cases they’re just useless. The focus is in enhancing the personal relation between Eça and Ramalho and make that into the fuel to the story evolution. And that’s just soap operish. And the story within, which actually Is like a soap opera in its original intentions is taken so seriously in the film, that we can’t relax and laugh with it as we were supposed to. So what began as a clever exploitation of a unique experience in Portuguese, ended up being a total mess-up. I think why so many productions like this is due to a lack of self-confidence by the people involved. Not believing that the material is good enough to breath on its own, they butcher their own products so than can become more “appealing” to the “audiences”. Well these films usually end up being a joke of themselves, such as this book is a joke on the romantics. And there were interesting clues in the original story about multiplication of points of view: basically there were several characters, that we now know were fictitious, that would tell their own version, or a different part of the story. this would be powerful filmic material, in the right hands.

Also, another problem is how productions like this, in Portugal, are incredibly broken into several pieces without existing a single mind, or small group of minds, that controls the whole thing. In the extras, there is a moment in which someone comments on how they got files from the internet with the soundtrack to try of the film! Such a small scale and there are no personal meetings to ensure things go right. I mean, James Cameron could deliver a relatively unified vision in a production that span dozens of countries, involving countless people who didn’t know each other, but here that is not done with such a small scale film. And of course that affects directly the outcome. So we have several clearly displaced actors, and among them, the countess is the more insultuous. She’s a wax figure, bloodless, even speak-less (she is dubbed so we wouldn’t have Brazilian accent on a Portuguese countess). I suppose that’s also why we have Carmen made into a cuban (?), she who in the story is a Bizet’s Carmen.

Ivo Canelas is not very talented, but he delivers passion. That deserved a better guidance, by someone who would know how to. He needs to cut that methodic crap, and start being more true to himself. That’s the method. But he probably needed something that needer Paixão da Costa nor Vasconcelos can deliver him. Guidance.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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