Manoel de Oliveira - Director

Nationality: Portuguese. Born: Manoel Cândido Pinto de Oliveira in Oporto, 10 December 1908; grandfather of actor Ricardo Trepa. Family: Married Maria Isabel Carvalhais, 1940; four children. Career: Athlete and race car driver, 1920–27; directed his first film, 1929, then returned to sporting activities, 1930s; directed his first feature, Aniki-Bóbó , 1941; unable to make films, worked in agriculture, 1943–71; became a full-time filmmaker, 1972. Awards: Berlin Film Festival Special Prize-Interfilm Award, 1981; Venice Film Festival Golden Lion, "For His Whole Works," 1985; Sao Paolo International Film Festival Critics Special Award, for Os Canibais , 1988; Cannes Film Festival FIPRESCI Award (Special Award), 1990; Venice Film Festival Special Grand Jury Prize, for A divina comedia , 1991; Locarno International Film Festival Leopard of Honor for Lifetime Achievement and His Latest Movie, O Dia do desespero , 1992; Sao Paolo International Film Festival Critics Award, Tokyo International Film Festival Best Artistic Contribution Award, for Vale Abraao , 1993; Catalonian International Film Festival Prize of the Screenwriter's Critic and Writer's Catalan Association, for O Convento , 1995; Cannes Film Festival FIPRESCI Award, European Film Awards FIPRESCI Award, Tokyo International Film Festival Special Achievement Award, for Viagem ao principio do mundo , 1997; Best Director Portuguese Golden Globe, for Inquietude , 1998; Mar del Plata Film Festival Special Jury Prize, 1998; Montreal World Film Festival Grand Prix Special des Ameriques, 1998; Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize, for A Carta , 1999.

Films as Director:


Douro, faina fluvial ( Hard Labor on the River Douro ) (short)(+ pr, sc, ed)


Miramar praia das rosas (short) (+ pr, sc, ed); Ja se fabricam automovels em Portugal (short) (+ pr, sc, ed)


FamalicĂŁo (short) (+ pr, sc, ed)


Aniki-BĂłbĂł (+ sc)


O pintor e a cidade ( The Painter and the Town ) (+ pr,sc, ed, ph)


O pĂŁo ( Bread ) (+ ed, ph, sc)


O coracĂŁo ( The Heart ) (short) (+ sc)


Acto da primavera ( The Passion of Jesus ) (+ pr, ed, ph, sc); A caça ( The Hunt ) (+ ph, ed, sc)


As pinturas de meu irmĂŁo JĂşlio ( Pictures of My Brother Julio )(short) (+ pr, ph, ed)


O passado e o presente ( Past and Present ) (+ co-pr, ed)


Benilde ou a Virgem MĂŁe ( Benilde: Virgin and Mother ) (+ ed)


Amor de perdicĂŁo ( Doomed Love ) (+ sc)




MemĂłrias e confissoes ( Memories and Confessions ) (to be released only after de Oliveira's death)


Lisboa Cultural ( Cultural Lisbon )


Nice Ă  propos de Jean Vigo


O Sapato de cetim ( Le Soulier de satin ; The Satin Slipper )(+ sc)


O Meu Caso—Repeticoes ( Mon Cas ) (+ sc)


Os Canibais ( The Cannibals ) (+ sc, ed); A Bandeira Nacional ( The National Flag ) (doc short)


NĂŁo ou a VĂŁ GlĂłria de Mandar ( Non or the Vain Glory of Command ) (+ sc, ed)


A divina comedia ( The Divine Comedy ) (+ sc, ed)


O Dia do desespero ( The Day of Despair ) (+ sc, ed)


Vale Abraao ( Abraham Valley ) (+ sc, ed)


A Caixa ( Blind Man's Bluff ) (+ sc)


O Convento ( The Convent ) (+ sc, ed)


Party (+ co-sc)


Viagem ao principio do mundo ( Journey to the Beginning of the World , Voyage to the Beginning of the World ) (+ sc, ro as "Driver")


Inquietude ( Anxiety ) (+ sc)


A Carta ( The Letter ) (+ sc)


Palavra e Utopia

Other Films:


Fatima Milagrosa (Lupo) (uncredited extra)


A Canção de Lisboa (Telmo) (role)


Conversa Acabada (Botelho) (ro as Priest)


Lisbon Story (Wenders) (ro as himself)


By OLIVEIRA: book—

Aniki-BĂłbĂł , Porto, 1963.

By OLIVEIRA: articles—

"O cinema e o capital," in Movimento (Lisbon), October 1933.

Interview with Paulo Rocha, in Critica (Lisbon), March 1972.

Interview with JoĂŁo Botelho and Cabral Martins, in M (Lisbon), August/September 1975.

"A propos de Benilde ou a Virgem-MĂŁe," in Image et Son (Paris), February 1977.

"Los Paisajes pintados," an interview with F. Llináa and S. Zunzunegui, in Contracampo (Madrid), January 1981.

Interview with Richard Peña, in Journal of Film and Video (Carbondale, Illinois), Summer 1983.

Interview with Charles Tesson and others, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1986.

Manoel de Oliveira (center) on the set of The Satin Slipper
Manoel de Oliveira (center) on the set of The Satin Slipper

"Le cinema de demain," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1991 (sup).

Bassan, R., "La divine comedie," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), May 1992.

Borlee, G., "La divine comedie," in Grand Angle (Mariembourg, Belgium), July 1992.

Interview with A. de Baecque and T. Jousse, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1993.

Interview with J. A. Gili, in Positif (Paris), September 1993.

"Kijk eens Mama, ik heb een takening gemaakt!," interview with G. Lefort, in Skrien (Amsterdam), April/May 1994.

Interview with J. M. Lalanne, in Le Mensuel du Cinéma (Paris), June 1994.

"Sommes-nous un divertissement occasinnael pour la nature," interview with J.A. Gili, in Positif (Paris), June 1997.

Oliveira, Manoel de, "Petit dialogue," in Positif (Paris), June 1997.

On OLIVEIRA: books—

Manoel de Oliveira , Ciné-Club of Estremoz, 1955.

Manoel de Oliveira , with "Diálogo com Manoel de Oliveira," Cinemateca Portuguesa, Lisbon, 1981.

França, J. A., L. Pina, and A. Costa, Introdução à obra de Manoel de Oliveira , Lisbon, 1982.

Passek, Jean-Loup, Le cinéma portugais , Paris, 1982.

Lardeau, Yann, Manoel de Oliveira , Paris, 1988.

On OLIVEIRA: articles—

Demeure, Jacques, "Manoel de Oliveira," in Positif (Paris), no. 25–26, 1957.

Biette, J.C., "Notes sur l'oeuvre de Manoel de Oliveira," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1966.

Daney, Serge, "Notes sur les films de Manuel de Oliveira," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1977.

Magny, J., "Dossier-auteur Manoel de Oliveira," in Cinéma (Paris), March 1980.

Gillett, John, "Manoel de Oliveira," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1981.

Fonseca, M. S., "Manoel de Oliveira, o cinema e a crueldade," in Expresso (Lisbon), October 1981.

Lehmann, I., "Die Tetralogie der 'amours frustrés.' Zu Manoel de Oliveiras Filmen über Liebe und Tod," in Frauen und Film (Berlin), February 1982.

Kinisjarvi, R., "Manoel de Oliveira," in Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 6, 1990.

Degoudenne, L., and J. Noel, "Les cannibales," in Grand Angle (Mariembourg, Belgium), June 1990.

Baecque, A. de, "Comment on filme l'histoire," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1990.

Bierinckx, C., "New York Stories . . . en een Beetje Portugal," in Film en Televisie & Video (Brussels), February 1991.

Asselberghs, H., and K. van Daele, "Artistieke produktiestrategieen," in Andere Sinema (Antwerp), September/October 1991.

Bogaert, P. van, "O dia do desespero," in Andere Sinema (Antwerp), November/December 1992.

Szoboszlai, M., "Mar nem imadkoznak, csak miseznek," in Filmvilag (Budapest), no. 11, 1993.

Lalanne, J.M., "Le jour du desespoir," in Le Mensuel du Cinéma (Paris), April 1993.

Rollet, S., "Entre presence et absence," in Positif (Paris), September 1993.

Brandlmeier, T., "Blinde Maenner Zwei Filme von Manoel de Oliveira," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), April 1995.

Delpeut, P., "Een geniale primitief," in Skrien (Amsterdam), December/January 1995/96.

Montiero, J.C., "Le passe et le present," in Positif (Paris), March 1996.

Diana, M., "L'immaginazione e il desiderio," in Segnocinema (Vicenza, Italy), November/December 1997.

* * *

Simultaneously rugged and tender, the tortured work of Manoel de Oliveira, in which a personal vision is transformed into a unique expression of Portuguese culture, finds its only counterpart in that of Carl Theodor Dreyer. The radical aesthetic and ethical programs of both filmmakers met with incomprehension during the formative years of their careers. In addition, one finds a tragic fusion of profane desire and an aspiration toward the sacred in the work of both directors.

No man is a prophet in his own country; Oliveira, an artist of magnitude disproportionate to such a diminutive nation, confirms this aphorism. He found no favor under the Salazar regime; instead, he was condemned by its pettiness to silence and inactivity. Persecution did not cease with the death of the dictator. Oliveira continued to be charged with "not being natural" and was accused of the sin of "elitism." This is the reason there are so many films that Oliveira did not make. Only relatively late in his career did international acclaim force a measure of national recognition.

The first phase of Oliveira's work, what he calls "the stage of the people," was dominated by an intense dialogue between documentary and fiction. From the very beginning Oliveira refused to subjugate himself to "genres" and "schools" of filmmaking. An unmistakable movement toward fiction, toward the autonomy of the cinema vis Ă  vis the real , can be seen in his documentaries from Douro to Pinturas. In registering its images, Oliveira's camera approaches quotidien reality as a stage. Through montage, the world can be fixed, cut, and reproduced as a series of fragments.

The second phase of Oliveira's career began in 1972 and was characterized by a more complete expression of the impulse towards fiction. His work featured a concomitant change of objectives: the "stage of the people" is replaced by the "stage of the bourgeoisie." This phase comprises four films, from O Passado e o presente to Francisca , known as the "Tetralogy of Frustrated Loves." Alluringly romantic, possessed in particular by the love of perdition as expressed in the Portuguese literature of the time, these films attain an aesthetic refinement unsurpassed in European cinema.

In the 1930s Oliveira belonged to the cinematic vanguard. From 1940 to 1963 this cinematic craftsman anticipated many of the innovative aesthetic experiments of later filmmakers—from Italian neorealism to the cinema of Straub—without reducing his work to mere formalism. With the "Tetralogy," a risky and original project makes its appearance: the destruction of the narrative grammar which relies on the shot/countershot, and the destruction of psychological correspondences through the creation, in these films, of a "point of view belonging to no one." Refusing to identify itself with either the characters or the spectator, the camera alters spatial relationships in an effort not exactly to neutralize itself, but to situate itself in a space without a subject in order to fix faces and voices. His attention to "Voices" is important because, since these films were adapted from literary works, they resolutely assume the literary nature of the text , to which long and fixed shots or the repetition of such shots confer a temporality without parallel in the history of the cinema. The obsessive use of the studio is also underscored, re-enforcing a sense of enclosure and restriction. A similar emphasis is placed on the style or representation which situates actors and objects on the same level; their function is simply to be present.

Linking this formal experimentation with undeniably vigorous fiction, Francisca is Oliveira's masterpiece. In Francisca , a grandiose synthesis of literary, musical, and pictorial materials, a tellurian identification is revealed which is the origin of desire, fear, guilt, and perdition—the principle themes of Oliveira. After all, such an identification echoes an entire culture which, at its best, transcends a tormented pessimism and bitter irony, though it retains only the consolation of melancholy. This culture is Portuguese and Oliveira is its filmmaker.

What is truly amazing about Oliveira is that he scripted and directed one film per year through the 1990s—quite an accomplishment for an octogenarian/nonagenarian. His 1999 film, A Carta , a contemporary updating of Madame de Lafayette's seventeenth-century novel La Princesse de Cleves , is the story of a young married beauty of noble background and her plight upon finding herself attracted to another. Here, Oliveira acutely examines the eternal conflict between desire and honor, carnality and spirituality, and what is temporary and what is lasting. Various characters die, and the filmmaker ruminates on the impact of death, and how those who have passed on are remembered by those who remain. As with his other work, Oliveira fills the film with long, lingering takes that allow the viewer to observe what is on the screen, which serves as the filmmaker's canvas. Those less patient may feel that A Carta is too slow-moving; those more diligent will find views and ideas that are well worth pondering.

Perhaps Oliveira's most revealing late-1990s film is Viagem ao principio do mundo , a poignant, thoughtful road movie. Oliveira tells the story of a wise, aging filmmaker named Manoel (an elderly looking and aptly cast Marcello Mastroianni, in one of his final screen appearances), who remembers his past while traveling by car with several associates and stopping at different sites. The character Manoel surely speaks for the octogenarian filmmaker when he observes, "The mind is fine, but the wrapping deteriorates." And the character mirrors his creator in that his mind is forever active, and he is constantly thinking, recollecting, and philosophizing. "I am over the hill," the on-screen Manoel observes. "I am lame and old. . . I am not a masochist, but I remember when I was an innocent child." Later on, he poetically notes, "Memory is a landslide in a dreaming heart." Oliveira fills the film with subjective shots of the countryside as it appears from the car window; these images serve to offer a view of Manoel's world as seen by Manoel. But the filmmaker is not the lone sage character. One of Manoel's companions reflects Oliveira's worldview when noting, "Life is what it is, and death never fails."

Viagem ao principio do mundo is a meditation on the essence of life. It is crammed with wisdom regarding memory and the past, youth and old age, women and the nature of physical attraction, transgression and admitting transgressions, and, most touchingly, the passing of time and life's transitions.

—Manuel Dos Santos Fonseca, updated by Rob Edelman

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