Visit or Memories and Confessions

A Visita ou memorias e confissoes

Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal, 1982, Epicentre Films


The surprising emotional response that this film can create in the viewer is due in part to the unique nature of the project. The house in which Manoel de Olivera lived for 40 years in Porto has to be sold following the collapse of his family’s business. At the age of 73 he decided to shoot the film as a sort of farewell ceremony on the condition that it was only broadcast after his death. At the point of making the film he was unaware that he would live for more than another thirty years and make a further 25 films. As a sort of malicious, lofty trick, we’re witnessing a voluntarily posthumous film, sent from limbo to a still living spectator. In this excerpt, we see Oliveira opening the curtains, allowing enough light to come in for the shot in one long take, who then places himself in the centre of the frame and talks straight into the camera and the spectator on the other side, situated in front of his office, bookshelves and a copy of the Mona Lisa. It’s a simple and almost televisual device – it’s filmed by someone who has now left this life and become a ghost. Oliveira retraces, here, and later in the film, elements of his own life, his family’s life and the history of Portugal. The film also features a dramatic reconstruction of an incident in his life during the reign of Salazar, the Portuguese fascist dictator, along with home movies, his wife’s testimony, and photographs. The house takes on a personality, like a witness to family history, who has seen 40 years fly by, with loved ones dying, but also parties and weddings. Next, we hear the voices of a man and woman who we never see. These invisible actors seem to walk from room to room through the empty house, whilst browsing the intimate world of the bourgeois / semi-aristocratic lives that were lived here, shown by family photographs, beds and a bathroom. They survey the garden from a balcony, where trees offer up obvious testimony to the passage of time. Like in a Duras film, the voices accompany the shots, separated by short fades between scenes. They name what we see, hesitate to comment, question it, and compare the architecture of the space to a ship, whilst bickering with some degree of worried irony. As the camera moves forwards we hear footsteps. Are they the footsteps of fictional visitors or those of the film crew? The spectral, romantic music on the piano completes the melancholic tone giving it the air of a Visconti film, as if a world in the process of disappearing has already disappeared.