Amor Impossível: António-Pedro Vasconcelos films the consequences of an idealised love
by Vitor Pinto
- Amor Impossível stars emerging talent Victória Guerra as the victim of her own romantic obsession
Veteran Portuguese director António-Pedro Vasconcelos is back with Amor Impossível [+see also:
interview: Victória Guerra
film profile], a film depicting the tragic consequences of an idealised love story. Scripted by Vasconcelos’ regular collaborator Tiago Santos, the film is based on the real-life case of a girl killed by her boyfriend, who then tried to disguise his involvement in the murder.
Vasconcelos’ take on the fait divers focuses on the motivations that led to the crime, rather than on the crime investigation itself – although, paradoxically, most of the plot unfolds in flashbacks as a policewoman reads the victim’s diaries throughout the inquiry.
These two characters – Cristina, the victim (Victória Guerra), and Madalena, the cop (Soraia Chaves) – are at the centre of the plot, each embodying a sort of archetype: namely, the overly romantic girl who is passionate and immature, and the mature woman, turning increasingly bitter in a loveless secret affair with her workmate. Their stories are unveiled almost in parallel, and the destiny of the younger woman ends up influencing the decisions of the older one.
Guerra – who has been seen recently in Andrzej Zulawski’s Cosmos [+see also:
interview: Victória Guerra
film profile] and is soon to appear in Benoît Jacquot’s upcoming film, The Body Artist – is a real revelation. She lends her character a sexual magnetism and an emotional intensity that have been hard to find in Portuguese cinema over the last few years.
The script is a meticulous piece of work, although it may – at some points – seem more fragmented than intended, owing to its constant flashbacks and an underdeveloped crime plot. At one point, Chaves’ character argues with her lover (Ricardo Pereira) about the case, saying: “You have obviously never been a young girl in love!” We can be sure that neither was Tiago Santos, but the truth is that his script certainly represents a huge effort in terms of imagination and a commendable attempt to understand how it feels to be a young woman in love – and dealing with a sexual desire that is combined with an idealised vision of what a relationship should be. Some of the film’s dialogues are ingenious and inspiring, from Cristina’s English Literature oral exam – in which she outlines her theories on conflicting love affairs – to the story about the party behind the sky, which she hears from her boyfriend while smoking marijuana.
When we examine the plot, we recognise several literary influences, ranging from Emily Brontë’s classic Wuthering Heights to Oscar Wilde, whose The Ballad of the Reading Gaol – which once inspired a song for Fassbinder’s Querelle – has now been turned into a tune in Portuguese, and quite a prophetic one, actually: “Each man kills the thing he loves…”
Amor Impossível marks another successful collaboration between Vasconcelos and producer Tino Navarro. Undoubtedly one of the most solid directors on Portugal’s mainstream cinema scene, 76-year-old Vasconcelos often spends several years preparing his projects. This is the first time in a career spanning decades that he has actually released two films within a two-year period (the previous one, Os Gatos Não Têm Vertigens [+see also:
film profile], was released in September 2014). Let's hope that this unexpected shorter break between projects heralds the beginning of a more prolific phase in Vasconcelos’ career.