Everything good or bad that happens to us “down here” is written “up there”. This is the phrase most loved by Tiago, a chauffeur by profession, in order to justify his surprising action when he drives his boss through a strange Portugal in the delirious and endless story of his love-affairs. Multiple narratives for disturbing adventures, sex and power on the surface, power and knowledge in outright war, the class struggle as the driving engine of the world and the revelation of men and women’s behavior and the consequence of their actions. Without a second’s rest, today, just as three centuries ago, a vigorous, brutal, obscene and revolutionary text, within a game that Diderot took so far and so deep that it became transformed into the game of the world. A humorous tale of power by one of Portugal’s leading directors.
“Oh, how much happier we would all be if we read the classics! How wonderful it is to work on a text like this at a time when thinking is a crime, when the powerful try to tarnish human dignity when they arouse the spectre of the clash of civilizations or the crappy and sinister war of religions. The aim: to cover up the only thing that moves the world, the class struggle. When Bresson took a piece of Jacques le fataliste to make the sublime Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, he stated that Diderot’s text was as powerful and magnificent as it was closed and treacherous. Bearing this in mind, I carried out a merciless struggle in order to steal other pieces of The Fatalist and make a film for my own time and in which there could be the coexistence of soul, heart, brain and skin. For the love of the spectators, human like me. When Diderot wrote his novel (1771/73) he was imagining the French Revolution, which would decide that all men are born free and equal, and in the novel there were already all the revolutions that would happen in the world and all the revolutions would have to happen. Jacques le Fataliste is a hallucinatory whirlwind, with writing and a structure that are so radical and powerful that they leave us with a euphoric feeling that everything is possible, the furious passion that one can even palpably feel the matter of sentiments (which fascinated Brecht as much as Eisenstein), the affirming of life or of individual choice over fate, joy and wonderment as if we were at the same time grasping and allowing to slip away the perfect substance. And metonymy crushing metaphor, as it should be in the cinema.
“A writer friend of mine, Cabral Martins, once wrote: “Jacques the Fatalist is a theology in the absence of any god, and a philosophy in the absence of any truth”. And he was right. What is written" up there" happens “down here”. But what is down is up, what is outside is inside and the reverse is true. Good brings evil, evil brings on good and so on, endlessly, endlessly, today, yesterday, tomorrow. And so it should be. Journeys are the cinema." (Director João Botelho’s statement)
João Botelho is the Portuguese filmmaker of memory, whose films seek to transform the physical into the metaphysical and to render ideas and poetry physical. His work is based on the word, a creative approach that is almost more poetic than cinematographic and which was already demonstrated in his debut feature, Conversa Acabada (1982), a conversation between two great Portuguese writers, Fernando Pessoa and Mário de Sá-Carneiro, that could be defined as an epistolary framework for an examination of what is articulated through different times and fashions: a conversation that is anything but ‘finished’ (‘acabada’).
His subsequent films include Hard Times (1987) and Aqui na Terra (1993), for which he wrote the screenplay. In 1999 he was in the Venice Film Festival with Se a Memória Existe which received a good critical reception. He returned to Venice with Quem és Tu? (2001) from a novel by Almeida Garrett called Frei Louis de Sousa, and in… read more