Genre: Fantasy • Drama
Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Starring: Pilar López de Ayala, Ricardo Trêpa, Ana Maria Magalhães, Adelaide Teixeira
Duration: 97 min.
A magical tale about a young photographer who falls madly in love with a woman he can never have, except in his dreams.
The Strange Case of Angelica is a film written and directed by master filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard category of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival
It should be no surprise that when Manoel de Oliveira, who is undoubtedly the worlds oldest living director at the age of 103, who remarkably directed his first feature film in 1942, presents us with an odd, mystical, and magical tale that blurs the boundaries between life and death.
The story follows Isaac (Ricardo Trêpa), a young photographer who lives in a boarding house in a small town along the Douro river. One rainy evening by chance, he is summoned by a local wealthy family to take a portrait of their beautiful young daughter, Angelica (Pilar López de Ayala), who has tragically died. While finding the right angle for the portrait, Isaac suddenly sees through his viewfinder Angelica briefly open her eyes and smile. After the initial fear of realizing what just happened, and that nobody else witnessed the magical moment, Isaac becomes infatuated with the ghost of Angelica, dreaming and thinking about her constantly to the point of completely distracting his daily life.
It's a simple film not particularly strong on acting, story, or drama, but carries a wonderfully light and playful atmosphere and invites contemplation about life's mysteries while capturing the picturesque beauty of the Douro region in northern Portugal, all its hill and valleys, ancient architecture, and sprawling vineyards with a barely moving camera that often keeps a long calculated distance from the action. The greatest thing is the timeless nostalgic mood that Oliveira purveys throughout the picture, with a constant sense of the differences between modern life and the way things used to be.
It does at times get to be a bit stale, with long static conversations that seem to have no purpose other than to let your mind wander, but that doesn't undermine the strangely bewildering, inescapably romantic, and deeply poetic journey that this film manages to take you on.
— Bonjour Tristesse