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538 Ratings

Casa de Lava

Directed by Pedro Costa
Portugal, France, 1994


With a strikingly modern yet humanistic style, Costa elicits quietly declamatory performances from his remarkable cast (which joins nonactors and seasoned professionals) and creates moody, luminous tableaux to conjure an incantatory, Faulknerian earthiness.

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Casa de Lava Directed by Pedro Costa
The action is hauntingly cryptic. Mariana’s motives and actions resist easy interpretation, although Ms. Medeiros, an actress with many expressions who, for most of the movie, wears the same outfit (a short, flimsy red tunic), is never less than convincing. Her vivid presence is matched by that of Cape Verde’s volcanic landscape. Few movies have a stronger sense of place — or placelessness. The narrative is ravishingly tangled.
February 23, 2018
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Costa would gradually fine-tune his approach over his next few features, moving not only from formal 35mm compositions to the more abstract possibilities of video, but also from a white European point of view to that of Cape Verdean immigrants who fill his Fontainhas-set films. Even here, however, Costa’s gifts and ambition can be plainly seen, and the film’s enduring hypnotic power makes it a crucial entry in his filmography.
November 20, 2017
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In Pedro Costa’s melancholy, visually stark Casa de Lava, set amid the rocky volcanic landscape of Cape Verde, a young Portuguese nurse, Mariana (Inês de Medeiros), brings home an injured, unconscious construction worker, Leão (Isaach de Bankolé) . . . While Tourneur’s noir [I Walked with a Zombie] ascribed exoticism to the locals, Costa wisely suggests that those who deny passion or the present, including the willful Mariana and Edite, are the real living dead.
November 03, 2017

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