The Art of Dying Afar

Adapting a novel by the Portuguese writer Mário de Carvalho, Júlio Alves (Sacavém, IndieLisboa 2019) gives a bittersweet comedy about conjugal relationships, separations and communication. Arnaldo (Miguel Nunes) and Bárbara (Ana Moreira) want to end their relationship. We don’t know the reason, but we know they share the “paternity” of a turtle. Who will stay with the turtle? Where would it want to go? In this push-play game, the animal goes its way.

On the verge of rupture, doubt always arises. Júlio Alves’ first feature film is an adaptation of a work by Mário de Carvalho, an author that Alves has revisited in some of his short films. Now the universe is that of human relationships; – in this case, a couple is separating and goes through the always painful process of knowing who gets what, what belongs to who, who leaves and who stays, who is ready to compromise. Things are apparently not so bad, but who gets the turtle? The structure of the film is very well defined with an elegant composition of plans (Alves knows very well how to film closed spaces, specifically houses), the actors (the duo Ana Moreira / Pedro Lacerda) are very well directed always on the verge of suffering/apathy, and the montage has a correct rhythm that allows us to have the right information at every moment. And from there, just look in the mirror, because Júlio Alves hits us right in the eye. (Miguel Valverde)

Sacavém

It is not the usual documentary about an artist, in this case the filmmaker Pedro Costa, nor a synthesis of the whole of his work. Among other merits Sacavém finds an angle to speak of a major figure of contemporary cinema without resorting to the usual methods or to mimic Costa’s cinema. Júlio Alves finds a fair distance to read the work without the weight of reverence, connecting characters and recurring objects, starting from Casa de Lava to the next film, showing the continuity between the vision of the director and the world that inspires him (a singular form of realism haunted by ghosts and memories). Pedro Costa’s elusive presence in the film, is an example of a solitary and artisanal work ethic of which the films are the most eloquent demonstration. (N.S.)

A Casa

António, Zé Maria and João live in the House as they build it. For two years they restarted processes over and over according to their functions in the House. The transformations of the rooms forces constant changes in its organization. The rooms for eating, dressing or relaxing change. As do the inhabitants. Time passes. The inhabitants move into and out of shot. The camera doesn’t follow them. It stays there focusing on the particular. Natural light invades the geometric spaces, intensifying as the work advances. The sound environment also changes. The silences intensify. The contrasts are stronger and stronger. At the end we see the men who make the film for some, the work for others, or simply a house.