José e Pilar (2010)

“José e Pilar” (2010)


crossed roads

It’s so hard to make an engaging documentary. The usual process is to make the facts of stories you’re supposed to be told into a coherent narrative line, even if in reality that line isn’t so clear. That will provide the audiences with a story, something to follow. But how you follow that story is usually in a more external way than how you watch fiction, because in documentary you can’t or won’t have the same devices to fold you into the thing. You have always that trick on reenact some stuff, if the theme is history. That’s lame to me, and lazy.

Now here you have something really interesting. The film shows us countless excerpts of the lives of the 2 protagonists throughout the course of about 2 years. The film is presented as a reportage, more than a documentary, meaning that images are what you make of it, words come up apparently loosely. No bent narrative is delivered to you. Or so it seems.

Underneath this apparently random display of images, there’s a subtle layered structure. The life of the couple José/Pilar in the period of the film mapped to the story of the elephant in the book Saramago is writing. The story that this film displays mapped into the larger story of Saramago’s life, with all its weight in the story of literature and Portuguese culture, as we get it in between the lines in several moments of the narrative. The whole idea of journey and encounter mapped into the love story of José and Pilar.

And ultimately, as the title denounces, that story is central here. The idea of a pair of people bound by the art of one of them, who chooses to share it, allow the other half to be a part of it. Live as one, that’s the beautiful part of the story. I’m glad they chose to share a bit of that story with as, by allowing us to get into it.

His art matters. He is a humanist, has profound ideas, truly powerful ideas, and changed language, invented a new way on which people can express.

There is one moment when the metaphor for journey mapped into people’s lives is perfect: in Saramago’s hometown, one street has his name, another street which crosses the other one has her name. Crossed paths.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb


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