Saint George: Fighting the crisis with your fists
by Camillo De Marco
- VENICE 2016: Portuguese director Marco Martins, who was discovered at Cannes with his debut piece Alice, describes the financial crisis through a paradigmatic story about a boxer
How many victims have been left behind in the wake of the fearsome ‘men in black, the men of the troika made up of the ECB, the IMF and the European Commission? In 2011, Portugal ended up in their line of fire when the country defaulted. Salaries were slashed, small business closed, and people were left in serious debt. Portuguese director Marco Martins, who won the Regards Jeune award at Cannes 10 years ago with his debut film Alice [+see also:
interview: Marco Martins
interview: Nuno Lopes
film profile], and has, since then, divided his attention between documentary and theatre, wanted to use Saint George [+see also:
Q&A: Marco Martins
film profile] (being screened in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival) to immortalise the financial crisis and the resulting state of confusion of an entire country in images, through a paradigmatic story, that of a boxer.
This film marks the return, 11 years on from Alice, of Nuno Lopes (An Outpost of Progress [+see also:
film profile]), here playing Jorge, a man who has lost his job and risks losing his family: a Brazilian woman who is determined to return to her country of origin and a young son he adores. Jorge is a gentle giant, the victim of a patriarchal family, who boxes and participates in fixed fights to scrape together a bit of money. But that’s not all; to pay the rent for an apartment all of their own and to stop Susana (Mariana Nunes) and young Nelson (David Semedo) from leaving, he must get his hands dirty. Jorge only has his boxer’s physique to offer, and so decides to start working for one of the thousands of debt collection agencies that sprang up with the onset of the crisis. All Jorge has to do is accompany the collection agents as they intimidate creditors, but when they start resorting to dirty methods to convince one of them, Jorge backs away. But his fate is now sealed and Jorge must tread the path he has chosen right up until the end.
Preparation for Saint George took five years, during which the director immersed himself in the project, involving both professional and amateur actors. The latter were filmed by the camera as they performed without a script, as if the film were a documentary. But it is above all the performance of Nuno Lopes that makes the film special. Lopes embodies the repressed and unexploded power of a slice of society on its knees. Martins destroys the body, made up of nervous and tense muscles, engages it in real fights, and heals it as he delicately takes care of little Nelson. The magnificent light of the Atlantic is skilfully photographed by director of photography Carlos Lopes. But first and foremost, Martins shows that he has fully taken on board took the lessons learned from masters Wim Wenders, Pedro Costa and Manoel de Oliveira.
(Translated from Italian)