Young orphan boy Pedro da Silva (Arrais), the illegitimate child of an ill-fated romance between two aristocrats, is told the story of his past by kindly padre Father Dinis (Luz) - a tale of forbidden love, war, pirates, treachery and adultery.
Memory, status, duty, hypocrisy, caprice and coincidence dominated the films of the late Raúl Ruiz and this majestic adaptation of Camilo Castelo Branco’s 1854 novel makes a fitting last testament. Requiring several narrators, this ‘diary of suffering’ centres on the relationships between nobleman José Afonso Pimentel and mother Maria João Bastos, dandified thug Ricardo Pereira and French heiress Clotilde Hesme. As the plot touches upon prostitution, war, treachery, spiritual anguish and social duplicity, chameleon characters come and go with a rapidity that spurs Ruiz into taking the increasingly convoluted events at a breakneck speed. Abetted by a superb cast and an intricate, if operatic, script, Ruíz displays a mastery of cinematic and storytelling technique that ensures this epic saga remains utterly engrossing.
Storytelling of breathtaking scale and grandeur, even if the complex plotting may twist your synapses along the way.
Reviewed by David Parkinson