The Murmuring Coast rating 
3.5/5 The Murmuring Coast

Director Margarida Cardoso
Writer Margarida Cardoso, Cedric Basso
Stars Beatriz Batarda, Filipe Duarte, Monica Calle, Adriano Luz, Luis Sarmento
Running time 120 minutes
Country Portugal
Year 2004
Associated shops

Reviewed by Serafina

This is a beautifully photographed film, set in Mozambique during the years of the Portuguese regime. The look and feel of the film reminds me of Tavernier's Coup De Torchon, about French colonialists in Africa running amok, but it has a feminist take which is very winning and not too heavy.

Evita is a young woman who has come out to Mozambique to marry her boyfriend Luis, who is doing his military service. He has fallen under the spell of his macho captain, emulating his decadent lifestyle - drinking heavily, shooting animals randomly. Luis admires the fact that the older man murdered his wife's lover by forcing him to play Russian roulette.

Evita is an educated, rather sophisticated and, I thought, quite determined young woman, who senses the changes in Luis from the moment of the wedding, and is in despair. She has nothing in common with the depressed wife of the captain, now virtually a prisoner in her own home, and becomes outraged by an episode that occurs on the night of their wedding - many Africans are killed by poisoned alcohol and their deaths continue in the coming days.

Evita finds bottles on the beach filled with the stuff after her husband leaves for action in the interior. She takes one of them to a journalist in the city, who tells her there is nothing he can do. She accompanies him around the city, visiting his various mistresses and their children, spending time in a nightclub, but going home with his friend, a portly and rather kind fellow journalist. Soon she is followed by the first journalist and seduced by him days later, but not before determining that he knows exactly what is going on and is writing it up in his column, all masked by being in the form of poetry.

Evita visits the captain's wife, who expresses contempt for her husband, and is waiting for him to be killed in action. When the soldiers return from their failed mission, Luis is shattered, and he and Evita are estranged. He seems to learn quickly about his wife's affair and challenges the poet journalist to the same form of Russian roulette as the captain played with his wife's lover.

This is very much about the Sixties, from a Portuguese viewpoint. It looks wonderful, with its sultry air, more vivid than I can remember ever seeing in a film. Evita might have walked off an Antonioni movie set and the soundtrack is composed of pop music of the era - French, African, Portuguese.

Evita, played by Beatriz Batarda, is a wonderful character, obviously more intelligent than anyone else, with the possible exception of the journalist, and there are echoes of The English Patient, with the heroine unfaithful to her weak, conventional husband with a man who seems his opposite in every way. She appears not to feel guilt, watching her actions, as if from above. I thought her neither tragic, nor cold; I thought her fearless.

Although some of the acting is weak, there are wonderful scenes, and co-writer/director Margarida Cardoso holds our interest in this Portuguese version of a Graham Greene world. I was impressed by her self-confidence and especially by the skill of cinematographer, Lisa Hagstrand.

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