A deft exploration of the brutal scars of colonialism whose genre twists and turns give new meaning to ‘the horror of war’.
It’s 1974 and the southern African country of Angola is in the final throes of its war for independence. A young woman from a local tribe encounters a Portuguese soldier in the forest, learning about both love and loss in the process. Elsewhere, within the confines of a seemingly infinite wall, a platoon of young Portuguese soldiers is put through arduous training manoeuvres by a sadistic colonel as they await justice for 400 years of violent rule. Gradually, these enigmatic threads weave reality, symbolism and the supernatural together into an enveloping, ever-shifting horror-fantasia.
Premiering in competition at Locarno, Angolan-Portuguese filmmaker Carlos Conceição’s second feature is an untoward and singular drama that reveals its myriad influences: Pedro Costa, Miguel Gomes, Jacques Tourneur and Claire Denis. Vasco Viano’s cinematography seduces with images of austere beauty, combining with Conceição’s expertly deployed genre flourishes to conjure an extraordinary fable of tyranny and the corruption of innocence.
“Remarkable … Formally and structurally audacious in ways that build in power and meaning … Conceição’s pointed, upsetting and darkly funny film winds up delivering a globally applicable history lesson.” – Variety