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Directed by Pedro Costa

Portugal, France, Germany 1994 110 mins.

A sensual, atmospheric arthouse zombie film par excellence, Costa’s second feature—following 1989’s strikingly luminous Blood—is set on the rugged, tiny islands of Cape Verde off the West African coast. A young nurse, Mariana (Inês de Medeiros), accompanies a comatose immigrant, Leão (Isaach de Bankolé), back to Cape Verde from Lisbon. Among the island locals are an aging Portuguese woman (Edith Scob) and her son (Pedro Hestnes), whose presence signals Portugal’s colonial past while asking tough questions about its legacy. As Leão slowly heals and Mariana becomes bewitched by the islands, Costa’s film becomes purposefully fitful in its rhythmic construction, and in the end is one of the strongest films in an oeuvre fully populated with generative, innovative work. “The cinema of Pedro Costa is populated not so much by characters in the literary sense as by raw, human essences—souls, if you will. This is a trait he shares with other masters of portraiture, including Robert Bresson, Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Demy, Alexander Dovzhenko, Carl Dreyer, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, and Jacques Tourneur. It’s not a religious predilection but rather a humanist, spiritual, and aesthetic tendency. What carries these mysterious souls, and us along with them, isn’t stories—though untold or partially told stories pervade all of Costa’s features. It’s fully realized moments, secular epiphanies.”—Jonathan Rosenbaum. “New enigmas reveal themselves with each viewing.”—Jacques Rivette.

Genres: Drama

Appears in: Essential Cinema