Sophie Renouf, Marketing Manager at Greenwich Picturehouse previews this week’s Discover Tuesdays title.
Horse Money (12A)
Director: Pedro Costa.
Starring: Tito Furtado, Antonio Santos, Ventura. Portugal 2014. 105 mins. Portuguese with English subtitles.
Ventura, who first appeared in Costa’s Colossal Youth as a Cape Verdean relocated to the outskirts of Lisbon, returns at the centre of Horse Money. Disoriented by the past and the strangeness of the present, he continues his dreamlike journey.
In Horse Money we are first introduced to Ventura through the sound of his footsteps approaching down a tunnel like the purposeless shuffling of a ghost. Meanwhile we look at his flattened image in a painted portrait. Yet Ventura is real, a striking manifestation of the violence and abandonment that are the hidden context of his story – a background that is never explicitly depicted on screen, and yet is as present as if it had been.
Costa gives us sequences of stagnant shots in which movement is barely detectable; faces dappled in light and shadow, like paintings or statues. Within this unreality, Ventura’s ghosts (whether dead or alive) haunt, torment and console him. We try to extract meaning from the echoes and shadows, from the disjointed dialogue that almost tells Ventura’s story yet leaves so many questions unanswered. Costa’s rejection of conventional narrative forces us to make what we can from the debris, from the shots of derelict shacks and homes, as we hear 20- and 30-year-old conversations that still have no conclusion. We are witnessing a time-warp world whose inhabitants seem barely to exist, moving seamlessly from present to past, talking to walls and into unplugged telephones.
The silent montage of photographs that open the film, that appear before Ventura’s portrait and Ventura himself, set the film’s tone as a configuration of fragmentary sounds and images enigmatically linked. The logic of the narrative belongs to Ventura: it is his mind we are stumbling through as he stumbles through woodland with soldiers in pursuit, in a scene that feels part metaphor and part flashback.
Violence, so central to Ventura’s condition, is visually absent. Its most explicit depiction is through verbal snapshots by friends and family. But the violence is there in the deeply sad, expressive faces that the camera rests on, it is there in the unsaid ‘cause of death’ of an old friend, and it is there in Ventura’s trembling hand. It is through the physical absence of violence on screen that its effects are realised most profoundly.
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