Ema is a sweet and innocent girl who is so beautiful she turns the head of every man she passes. Her life takes a despairing turn for the worse when her father forces her into a passionless marriage to his friend, a wealthy doctor. To make matters worse, she is relocated to the scenic but unfamiliar and isolated vineyards of Abraham’s Valley, Portugal where the breathtaking river Douro flows. Trapped in a marriage to a man she does not love, she scorns her husband and threatens to kill herself rather than submit to his desires.
Director: Manoel de Oliveira. AKA Abraham’s Valley
Stars: Leonor Silveira, Luis Miguel Cintra, Cecile Sanz de Alba, Ruy de Carvalho, Gloria de Matos, Luis Lima Barreto, Micheline Larpin, Diogo Dória, José Pinto, Filipe Cochofel, João Perry, António Reis, Isabel Ruth, Dina Treno, Dalila Carmo, Paula Seabra.
Can’t thank you enough for this – one of my favorite movies ever, and the only region 1 DVD ever produced was a completely unwatchable transfer in the wrong aspect ratio. You’ve made my weekend!
Fascinating and (seemingly) tedious by turns – as is the main character, Ema, who always retains a kind of distance, as the film does in its discretion towards her, constantly mentioning Madame Bovary, to whom she rightly points out, she has little in common – as if Emma Bovary becomes a stalking horse? The novel’s Proustian observation is the source of this mixed atmosphere, and to protect this or enable it to survive in the film there are long sections of voice-over, so dense that it would take two or three listenings to get the full gist. Sometimes there’s also a Shakespearean air in the presentation – with characters delivering soliloquies. Ultimately, all this is good, you just need to be ready for it. I’ve wanted to see it for twenty-five years and still was not quite ready at first. You need to approach Vale Abraão, as if it were Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (1966) but pitched on a more specific, less metaphysical plane. It could probably be improved by losing half an hour? Or maybe it’s just that no matter how many films of this density you’ve seen in the past unless you watch nothing else, you need to relearn how to watch them every time. You cannot afford any ‘intellectual inflexibility’ – and the sad fact is that most cinemagoers and film watchers nowadays cannot help but be so attuned to the mainstream wavelength that it becomes impossible for them either to appreciate black & white ‘B’ films or old TV on the one hand, or anything with any degree of challenge on the other. By the way, Leonor Silveira is mesmerizing even when she is tedious(!) as is the Portuguese landscape and the film is at times surprisingly funny.