Manoel de Oliveira

Fatal loves, elusive virgin women and the sombre, selfish men who watch them – and the gaze that remains helpless. All this was not really new for Manoel de Oliveira when he decided to shoot Francisca (1981), an adaptation of Fanny Owen, published two years before. And yet these elements never found the same degree of purification and complexity. From the masked ball which opens the film, and in contrast to the extreme narrative adventure of Amor de perdição, it is the captions in Francisca that move the action along and advance time. Two friends, who were at one time very close, José Augusto and Camilo Castelo Branco (author of Amor de perdição), both love the same woman, Fanny (alias Francisca), but with a very different type of love. Nobody knows why the first, who married her, never wanted to consummate the marriage. Because he wanted to do so through his friend and rival? Certainly, this desire and passion required an infernal triangle to devour itself in a death alliance. Certainly, “the soul is not a chair offered for a visit… The soul is a vice,” says Fanny. She died in August 1854 and José Augusto in September, their story was real and was told by Camilo, who was 29 years old. The absolute pinnacle of Oliveira’s art, Francisca is a film about first encounters: with the immense Agustina, a volcanic writer “whose words come from the confines of the Earth and Memory” (as Oliveira once told me); with newcomer Paulo Branco, who produced twenty feature films by the filmmaker until 2005; Diogo Dória (Jose Augusto), an actor who was dear to him.
In Portugal, the film enjoyed unprecedented success that has since remained unrivalled. At 73, Oliveira then requested special support to shoot a film of memories that would only be shown after his death. Neither he nor anyone else could have guessed that his work had not even completed half of its journey. (FF)

Technical sheet


Portugal, 1981, Colour, 35mm, Mono, 166’

Original version : portuguese
Script : Manoel de Oliveira from the novel by Augustina Bessa-Luís
Photography : Elso Roque
Editing : Monique Rutler
Music : Jáo Paes
Sound : Jean-Paul Mugel
Casting : Teresa Meneses, Diogo Dória, Mário Barroso
Production : Paulo Branco, V.O. Filmes.