The Convent [Import]
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An American professor and his wife travel to a Portuguese monastery seeking documents for his thesis to prove that Shakespeare was a Spanish Jew who left in 1492 because of the Inquisition. It soon becomes apparent that the monastery is being cared for by Satan-worshippers.
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This is one of the most sincerely bizarre films I have ever seen. Moodily photographed at an (real) abandoned monastery on the Portuguese coast, this chamber drama of six characters (three couples) is a throwback to the Faust and Eden stories, both at once, and seems, despite the literary and Biblical antecedents, completely fresh and unexpected, peppered with offbeat humor and framed with a sometimes mournful, sometimes terrifying musical score by the Russian composer by Sofia Gubaidulina. (If you fall in love with the music, as I did, the pieces are called "Officitorum" and "The Seven Last Words of Christ" and both are available on CD in excellent recordings. "Officitorum is a LONG, wildly expressionist violin piece which ends in the more formal and haunting part showcased in the movie.) The international cast speaks English, French and Portuguese indifferently.
To people with a little patience, a sense of playfulness and an eye for the strange and beautiful, this film is a real Halloween treat. After having watched the movie, you don't remember it so much as a movie. You remember it more as a dream. Days later you'll ask yourself: Did I see what I thought I saw, or am I imagining it?
Frankly, I'm thrilled The Convent gotten this new inexpensive DVD release.
The monastery has descended into devil-worship, and its leader has strayed from proper reverence for Lucifer. (SPOILER ALERT: THE NEXT SENTENCE EXPLAINS THE UNDERLYING PLOT OF THE FILM.) Catherine Deneuve's character arrives on the scene, and takes care of the problem; she is Satan disciplining a follower. The interest in the film, other than the setting, very atmospheric music, and good acting, is the unexpected way the dark angel appears as an apparently unthreatening woman, and punishes her wayward disciple.
And, last but not least, you get a movie with Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich but pay attention in a very impressive performance of Luis Miguel and the beauty Leonor Silveira that compose Piedade with delicate. Luiz Miguel and Leonor Silveira outperform Malkovich and Deneuve.
The only major problem: The sound isn't very good and some takes aren't good illuminated.
But if you wander around seeking a real pleasure for eye and mind - you've found it. It is very quiet, chamber, and definitely not straightforward. It is rather a sequence of brilliant etudes of light and color played by wonderful actors. Art of cinema at it's best.