Director: João Botelho
Cast: Chico Diaz, Luís Lima Barreto, Catarina Wallenstein, Victoria Guerra, Hugo Amaro, João Barbosa, Rui Morisson
130 minutes: Portuguese with English subtitles – 2020
Fernando Pessoa, one of the greatest writers of the Portuguese language, established a gigantic parallel universe creating a series of heteronyms to survive his loneliness of genius. Nobel laureate of literature José Saramago wrote this novel about one of these heteronymous characters, Ricardo Reis, a fictitious author, with unique personality and style, who returns to Portugal, after 16 years of exile in Brazil. 1936 is the year of all danger, Mussolini’s fascism, Hitler’s Nazism, the terrible Spanish civil war and Salazar’s Estado Novo in Portugal, but this is all a delicate backcloth to Ricardo’s dalliances with women and his mysterious encounters with the ghost of Fernando Pessoa.
“The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis is a unique and magnificent work by José Saramago, but if there is another way of telling this novel, equally unique and magnificent, it is this film unravelling by veteran director João Botelho.” Botelho’s screenplay and direction is crucially supported by João Ribeiro’s beautiful black and white cinematography, fostering a unique aesthetic-narrative construction for the telling of this story.
In a perfect filmology of sensations, the small gestures, looks, intimate close shots, tell us of memories, thoughts, and secrets in a visually poetic manner that is transcendent of text or dialogue. Carolina Alves, C7nema
Botelho films exquisitely between light and shadow, with a visual richness reminiscent of the best of French impressionism and a tempo that sways the senses. Seville Festival
This film adaptation treats characters and circumstances with a solemnity reverent to the Nobel prize-winners book, enveloping the celebration of the word with a framework that is close to meta-language. Marcello Muller, Papo de Cinema