Mysteries of Lisbon

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Mysteries of Lisbon
Mysteries of Lisbon.jpg
American poster
Directed by Raúl Ruiz
Produced by Paulo Branco
Written by Carlos Saboga
Based on Os Mistérios de Lisboa
by Camilo Castelo Branco
Starring Maria João Bastos
Clotilde Hesme
Music by Jorge Arriagada
Luís de Freitas Branco
Cinematography André Szankowski
Edited by Carlos Madaleno
Valeria Sarmiento
Distributed by Clap - Produção de Filmes (Portugal)
Alfama Films (France)
Release date
  • 12 September 2010 (2010-09-12) (Toronto)
  • 21 October 2010 (2010-10-21) (Portugal)
Running time
272 minutes
Country Portugal
Language Portuguese
Budget €2.5 million

Mysteries of Lisbon (Portuguese: Mistérios de Lisboa) is a 2010 Portuguese costume drama film directed by Raúl Ruiz based on an 1854 novel of the same name by Camilo Castelo Branco. The movie is a notably long 272 minutes. It played as a miniseries in 60-minute installments in some countries.[1] The film has won 9 awards and has been nominated 8 times.

Mysteries of Lisbon is rich with coincidences, plot twists, multiple narrators, disguises, and flashbacks-within-flashbacks. Every major character possesses at least two identities, and the story—which hopscotches around Europe in the early 19th and late 18th centuries—ropes in the Napoleonic Wars, pirates, a woman hellbent on avenging the death of her twin brother, and at least four different love triangles. Above all, Mysteries of Lisbon is about the mechanics of storytelling and imagination—in other words, how fiction works.[2]


The film initially focuses on João (João Arrais), an orphan boy at a school run by the priest Father Dinis (Adriano Luz) during Portugal's Revolução Liberal. João becomes ill after being bullied by another boy who tells him he is a criminal’s child and awakens in a delirium to find a lovely woman watching over his bed. After recovering, Dinis takes João to see the woman who is indeed João’s mother, Countess Ângela de Lima (Maria João Bastos). For João's entire life, she had been imprisoned in her own home by her husband, the Count of Santa Bárbara (Albano Jerónimo). Dinis helps Ângela flee from her husband’s house when he’s away fighting the revolutionaries.

We finally learn João is the lovechild of Ângela and Pedro da Silva (João Baptista), a young nobleman without a fortune. Ângela's father, the Marquês de Montezelos (Rui Morrison), rejects Da Silva's marriage offer and hires the assassin "Knife Eater” (Ricardo Pereira) to kill him. Before dying, Da Silva manages to find refuge with Dinis and tell him his story. Dinis dons the guise of a gypsy and follows Ângela to the country where she is to give birth to João. Dinis intercepts Knife Eater who was also instructed to abduct and kill the baby. Dinis buys off Knife Eater and sees to the child's upbringing. Ângela is summarily married off by her father the Marquês to the Count.

In the present, the Count spreads rumors that Ângela is Dinis’ lover. Dinis tracks him down to get him to recant, but finds the Count on his deathbed, tended by his maid and lover Eugénia (Joana de Verona). Dinis again encounters Knife Eater who has returned after using Dinis’ money to seek ill-gotten fortunes in Brazil. Knife Eater now goes by the name Alberto de Magalhães, a rich gentleman who mocks the Count’s slander. When the Count dies, Ângela who never believed she was the Count’s proper wife refuses the inheritance and leaves João with Dinis to live in a convent.

Dinis learns that he himself is the son of an illicit aristocratic affair when the priest Frei Baltazar da Encarnação (José Manuel Mendes) who gave the Count his last rites recounts his past. In his past, Frei Baltazar was Álvaro de Albuquerque (Carloto Cotta) who seduced and fell for the Countess de Vizo (Maria João Pinho), the wife of an acquaintance. They ran off together to Italy where she died in childbirth. Álvaro handed young Dinis over to a friend, who then had to pass him on, and so on until Dinis ended up being raised by a French nobleman and came to be fighting for Napoleon’s army in Spain under the name of Sebastiao de Melo.

Elisa de Montfort (Clotilde Hesme) tries to disturb de Magalhães’ happy marriage to the Count’s former mistress, Eugénia, by returning money de Magalhães had paid her for sex. As Dinis tells Elise the story of her mother’s death, de Magalhães bursts in and nearly strangles Elisa to death after she threatens to shoot him, but Dinis’ talks him out of the murder. Elisa is the daughter of Dinis’ own tragic love, Blanche de Montfort (Léa Seydoux), who married Dinis’ comrade-in-arms Benoit (Julien Alluguette), but took a lover, Lacroze (Melvil Poupaud). Lacroze was a man who was saved by Benoit and Dinis from a roadside firing squad during the war. Benoit ultimately killed Blanche in a fire.

João grows into a young poet (José Afonso Pimentel) and encounters Elisa who vaguely resembles his mother. Elisa enlists his aid when he falls for her to avenge her honor by challenging de Magalhães to a duel. De Magalhães complies but gets João to call it off for a large sum of money. João leaves Portugal for a far off colony, falls ill and dictates his memoirs from his own supposed deathbed. His final vision is his memory of his mother looking over him when he laid sick as a child.


Episode guide[edit]

Mysteries of Lisbon was separated into six episodes that aired in only several countries before being compiled into the 2010 feature film.

Episode 1: At a boys' college run by Father Dinis, young orphan Joao obsesses about his parentage. When he suddenly falls ill, his mother visits him by his bedside and gives him a miniature theatre diorama as a gift. It soon becomes clear that she is a noblewoman, who has managed to sneak out of the house where she is kept locked up by her tempestuous husband the Count of Santa Barbara.[3]

Episode 2: The strange former life of Father Dinis is revealed, as well as how he saved Joao from death at the hands of the same man who shot his father. Meanwhile, as the Count of Santa Barbara spreads the lie that Angela left him heartbroken for another man, a mysterious merchant steps forward to defend her honour and halt the gossip spreading through the salons of Lisbon's high society.[4]

Episode 3: A monk sheds light on the mysterious past of Father Dinis, who is shocked by the true identity of merchant Alberto de Magalhaes.[5]

Episode 4: Having discovered that Antonia is not the real sister of Father Dinis, Angela searches for the truth behind her relationship with the priest. As the past unravels, the dark history of her mother comes to light, and the string of misfortunes that plagued her for the rest of her life.[6]

Episode 5: Father Dinis's complicated history is further unravelled as Elisa de Montfort, a woman with an unknown connection to Magalhaes, arrives at the merchant's home to repay a mystery debt. Recognising her as she waits to speak to Alberto's new wife, the priest beckons of her to talk. Flashbacks reveals his extraordinary link to the young visitor, his own story of jealousy and lost love, and the fate that befell Elisa's mother at the hands of one of his closest friends.[7]

Episode 6: Now a student and known as Pedro da Silva, Joao falls into the destructive path of Elisa de Montfort, the daughter of Father Dinis's former lover. She convinces him that the only obstacle to their future together is Alberto de Magalhaes, so he challenges the merchant to a duel.[8]

Reception[edit] gave the film an 84%, with a rating of 7.6/10.[9] Metacritic gave the film an 86/100, with critics giving it mostly a positive review.[10]





External links[edit]