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João César Monteiro
Portugal 1981 / 118’
Hovering Over the Water

The dark Silvestre brings to life a world of folklore and fairy tales (Bluebeard) and with it the spirit of the medieval traveling theater. Set in the 15th century, this seemingly light and naive story about two sisters, the violation of a prohibition, a girl hiding in a knight's armor and dragons takes us on an adventurous journey into the depths of national founding myths to uncover their underlying layers of violence. Presented in the competition at the Venice Festival, the film stars Maria de Medeiros (the memorable Fabienne from Pulp Fiction) in her first acting role. Her character is a reference to Joan of Arc. Boldly unraveling the threads between painting, cinema, theater and poetry, Monteiro reaches into the past to uncover the roots of fascism, which time and time again has cast its shadow on Portuguese history. But cinephiles will also see other affinities in the film: with its extraordinary imagination and dark humor, Silvestre no doubt inspired Miguel Gomes's acclaimed Arabian Nights (2015).

Małgorzata Sadowska

João César Monteiro

Jõao César Monteiro (1939-2003), one of Europe's most original and at the same time least-known filmmakers, was a director, actor, critic, writer and poet. He studied at the London Film School, though his work can't be attributed to any particular film school. His individual, erudite, eccentric and sometimes controversial films benefit from poetry, philosophy, theater and painting. If you were to look for cinematic inspirations in his work, then Buster Keaton would undoubtedly be one of the key figures for Monteiro. Raised during the time of the Salazar dictatorship, Monteiro aimed his stories, laced with black humor, at the guardians of public morality: the church, the state, the family. He pursued in his first films the sources of national foundation myths before later creating on screen the figure of a profane saint, João de Deus, who owes his name to the patron saint of prostitutes, fishermen and the mentally ill. As Haden Guest wrote, de Deus embodies the contradictions in the Portuguese director's work: an austere dandyism, a religious perversity, a sense of comic tragedy, a type of slapstick fatalism.

Selected filmography

1969 Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (dokument)

1975 Que Farei eu com Esta Espada? / What Shall I do with This Sword? (dokument)

1978 Veredas / Paths

1981 Silvestre

1986 Kwiat morza / À Flor do Mar / Hovering Over the Water

1989 Wspomnienia z Żółtego Domu / Recordações da Casa Amarela / Recollections of the Yellow House

1992 Ostatnie zanurzenie / O Último Mergulho / The Last Dive

1995 Komedia Deusa / A Comédia de Deus / God's Comedy

1997 Biodra Johna Wayne'a / Le Bassin du J.W. / The Hips of J.W.

1998 Śluby Deusa / As Bodas de Deus / God's Wedding

2000 Królewna Śnieżka / Branca de Neve / Snow White

2003 Odejścia i powroty / Vai e Vem / Come and Go

Cast & Crew

director João César Monteiro
screenplay Jõao César Monteiro
cinematography Acácio de Almeida
editing Teresa Caldas, João César Monteiro, Manuela Viegas
music Helena Alfonso, Segréis de Lisboa, Grupo Etnográfico de Tuzelo, Kenneth Frazer, Catarina Latino (performers)
cast Maria de Medeiros, Teresa Madruga, Luís Miguel Cintra
producer Paulo Branco
production V.O. Filmes
sales Films Sans Frontiers
language Portuguese
colouration colour