Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Ornithologist

Movie Name: The Ornithologist/O Ornitólogo
Year of Release: 2016
Director: João Pedro Rodrigues
Stars: Paul Hamy, Xelo Cagiao, João Pedro Rodrigues, Han Wen, Chan Suan, Juliane Elting
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues is back, following his last film "The Last Time I saw Macao" which came out in 2012 (though he has directed a few shorts and documentaries since then). "The Ornithologist", follows the story of Fernando, a solitary ornithologist who is looking for black storks. While doing his observations, he takes his kayak down the river, and gets caught up in some unexpected rapids. He is discovered by a couple of Chinese pilgrims, who bring him back to life, but who suddenly decide to tie him up, in order to convert him. Fernando manages to escape, but his path keeps being met with interesting and colorful characters.
João Pedro Rodrigues has made a career for himself, by building stories around a universe that is very much his own. That was the case with his "O Fantasma", which came out in 2000, and followed the story of a young gay man who gets progressively more alienated from contact and society, and finally ends up living in a garbage dump. His films and universe tend to reflect a lot of themes that are close to him as an individual, namely his cultural legacy, his queer identity and the history of Portugal itself. Of all his films, "The Ornithologist" is quite possibly the most interesting, functioning on so many levels, from a perspective of pastoral story, to questions of faith and identity. It's definitely a film that stays with you, one that asks for many questions and forces the viewer to be invested in what is happening on the screen. The cinematography from Rui Poças is stunning. A very interesting  film from a unique voice in film.