Gebo and the Shadow
Original Title: O Gebo e a Sombra
Release date: September 26, 2012
Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Play by: Raul Brandão
Screenplay by: Manoel de Oliveira
Cast: Michael Lonsdale, Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau, Leonor Silveira, Ricardo Trêpa, Luís Miguel Cintra
Gebo and the Shadow, directed by centenary Manoel de Oliveira, is another tale about money, based on a 19th century play by Raul Brandão. De Oliveira, the iconic Portuguese filmmaker, addresses this subject for the second time in the last four years, after Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl which was based on a short story by Eça de Queiroz.
This wordy tale is about Gebo (Lonsdale), an honest collector who tries to protect his sour and tormented wife, Doroteia (Cardinale), from the idea of having a thief son- João (Trêpa) is an unscrupulous greedy man who has been missing for the past eight years and has just come back home to steal money without showing any kind of mercy. However, as consolation, Gebo has the company of Sofia (Silveira), his beautiful and sensitive daughter-in-law, who shows to be afraid of João, and lives with a huge pain in her heart.
There are some inherent differences between De Oliveira’s films, for example, the language switch from Portuguese to French, a fact that is not particularly a novelty considering Oliveira’s tendency to film in France, as well as the fact that several of his past films were inspired by French cinema such as Je Rentre à la Maison or Belle Toujours. Moreover, there’s the inclusion of a great international cast with the participation of veterans such as Michael Lonsdale, Claudia Cardinale, and Jeanne Moreau.
There’s also the cinematography by Renato Berta which is much more appealing than that presented by Sabine Lancelin in Eccentricities, taking advantage of the dim lights created by old oil lamps to compose a shadowy perspective of 19th Century.
Despite these transformations, many things continue to be a staple in Oliveira’s works such as his way of filming through long shots and just a few static camera shots, or the occasional classical score used to enhance the outer composed pictures, or even the rest of the cast, which includes the Portuguese Ricardo Trêpa, Luis Miguel Cintra, as well as Oliveira’s muse Leonor Silveira, who has participated in 19 of his movies, much of them as leading actress.
Despite the fantastic performances, this may be a boring experience for some viewers due to its literate tone, murky ambiance, and slowness. In my case, I found it an interesting story about anguish and sacrifice, which with a bit less theatrical approach and a bit more camera movement would have achieved better results. Aesthetically convincing, Gebo and the Shadow needed to put some more enthusiasm in this great tale, but that won’t be an issue for Oliveira’s style supporters.
By Filipe Freitas