Author: Mudede, Charles
Date published: April 13, 2011
Journal code: STRR
THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA
The ghost appears on the photographer's balcony. She is dressed in a flowing white gown; he is wearing pajamas. It is the middle of the night. Earlier that evening, he took photos of the ghost's corpse (arms crossed, eyes closed, smile on the face), which rests at her family's mansion. She, Angelica (Pilar López de Ayala), is a member of an old and wealthy Portuguese family; he, Isaac (Ricardo Trêpa), is a sensitive and artistic Sephardic Jew.
From the balcony, the two fly up and over the town, the hills, the river. This is the land of their supernatural love. This is also the beginning and the end of their love affair. The moment they return to his room, she vanishes and he begins to lose his mind. The ghost has put a spell on him.
In one scene, three worldly types (a professor and two engineers) sit in a dining room talking about antimatter and how it interacts with ordinary matter. They also talk about the terrible state of the Portuguese economy. Money and matter, the stuff that makes the human world go around and around. The photographer is also in the dining room, but he is not paying any attention to the talk about the global economic crash and the new particle accelerator in Switzerland. Isaac's whole mind has become filled with just one word: Angelica.
The director of this simple, lucid, elegantly paced ghost story, Manoel de Oliveira, was born in 1908, made is his first film before Hitler took power, and made 10 features in his 90s. Despite being so old, and next to death at every moment, his latest film has the kind of lightness you'd expect from a director who has lots of time to kill. Northwest Film Forum, April 15-21.