“Moral order”, rich and sumptuous setting for Maria de Medeiros

Moral order *

by Mário Barroso

Portuguese film, 1 h 41

The story, true, is particularly edifying, at a time when the #MeToo movement has opened a new chapter in the conquest of equality by women. On November 13, 1918, Maria Adelaide Coelho da Cunha, heiress and owner of the great Lisbon daily, the Diário de Notícias, directed by her husband, decides to abandon her social position and her money to escape with her driver, twenty-two years younger than her. A behavior condemned by the society of the time which made sure to declare her insane and forcibly intern her in a psychiatric hospital.

Maria de Medeiros, intriguing character

Director of photography based in France and regular collaborator of Manoel de Oliveira and João César Monteiro, Mário Barroso was freely inspired by this famous story in Portugal to build a rich and sumptuous setting for the actress Maria de Medeiros that we can looks forward to seeing it at the cinema. The whole film is built around this intriguing, feminist character before his time, who chooses to challenge, in more than one way, the established moral order. Basically, we do not know what shocks the good Lisbon society the most, his departure from the marital home with a younger man or the fact that he is a simple employee. The fight of this woman to resist oppression and to conquer a freedom without fortune is at the heart of a plot which would nevertheless have deserved more finesse in the staging.

The sumptuousness of the sets and the costumes, the very neat frames of the director who encloses his characters in a kind of theater where curtains and drapes keep opening and closing on the hypocritical customs of these aristocrats, end up weighing down the subject. . Fans will find the starchy and oppressive atmosphere Mysteries of Lisbon by Raoul Ruiz, with whom he shares the same screenwriter, Carlos Saboga. The affectations added to the plot – such as the sexual ambivalence of the character of the lover -, the deliberately theatrical play of the actors who surround Maria de Medeiros, the indolent rhythm of the action unfortunately freeze the film in an old-fashioned atmosphere and a little dusty.


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