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LOCARNO 2014 Competition

Horse Money, an epic voyage from darkness to light


- Pedro Costa’s latest film, in the International competition at the Locarno Film Festival, tells us about ghosts that are trying to rebuild an identity from the edge of a hospital bed

Horse Money, an epic voyage from darkness to light

Horse Money (Cavalo Dinheiro) [+see also:
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, Pedro Costa’s latest film, opens with the only concrete shreds of a story that in reality no longer exists, only in the hearts of those who experienced it. The black and white photos that flow before our eyes at the beginning of the movie show us unfamiliar and careworn faces. These faces seek to finally find the light after living too long in the dark. This initial sequence represents the only concrete, documentary reality in Horse Money, which slips immediately afterwards into the world of ghosts, of memories told by Ventura, who emigrated from Cape Verde to Lisbon in search of a better life. What really awaits him is a vast black hole that quickly engulfs him, crushes him, distancing him from his roots and at the same time blocking his access to a world that rejects him. Ventura is living in limbo; he gradually becomes a ghost, he finds himself devoid of both future and past, used and rejected during his life and forgotten once he’s dead. Just like his horse Money, Ventura is devoured by the vultures that used him until they had stripped him of his dignity, until they had crushed all of his dreams. The Fontainhas neighbourhood, that saw so many anonymous characters like Ventura pass through, no longer exists. Just like the hopes of those who lived in it, the neighbourhood has crumbled, sunk into oblivion.

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Horse Money appears as a marvellous series of tableaux vivants by Caravaggio and clearly displays the Portuguese director’s desire to become the narrator of a story that needs to be told. By using chiaroscuro lighting that illuminates the tired faces of those who have always lived in darkness, Pedro Costa seeks to recover the essence of a people deprived of their land and of their history, a people whose identity is sentimental and not territorial. This sensitivity, this humanity is highlighted in the movie. Fontainhas no longer exists but the spectres that inhabit it don’t want to leave; they continue to entrust their deluded hopes to the wind, like in a whisper. Like all restless souls, Pedro Costa’s souls wander in search of a peace that they’ve always been denied, in search of a dreamed-of land, of a place where they can live in dignity. Horse Money is a mix of moments powerful enough to reach epic dimensions. This is an extremely ambitious and powerful project that needs time to be processed. With his latest movie Pedro Costa sheds light once more on the spectres that inhabit his city, he writes the story of a people that never existed. The result is a quasi gracious portrait, a sublime one, made of whispers, tears that flow silently and emotions that are eventually expressed, although with great effort. A movie to be seen again and again.

(Translated from Italian)

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