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PRODUCTION Portugal / Brazil

João Botelho finishes filming The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis

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- It’s a wrap on the shoot of this adaptation of José Saramago’s novel of the same name

João Botelho finishes filming The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
Chico Diaz and Catarina Wallenstein on the set of The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis

João Botelho has finished shooting The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis [+see also:
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trailer
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]
, a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by José Saramago, published in 1984.

Set in Lisbon in 1936, it tells the story of Ricardo Reis’ return to Portugal, after spending 16 years in exile in Brazil. Ricardo Reis, one of Fernando Pessoa’s most notorious heteronyms, returns right after the death of Pessoa and spends nine months in Lisbon, where he – inevitably – dies, as did his “creator”. Reality and fiction intertwine in this story, which not only plays with the (imaginary) universe and (fatal) destiny of one of Pessoa’s heteronyms, but also portrays a country – and indeed a world – that was facing the rise of several fascist movements. 

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This is a follow-up to João Botelho’s latest films, adaptations of Portuguese literary works that, for the director, are “some sort of public service, (…) to warn and educate new generations, trying to revive the memory and pride of the older generations”. After Pilgrimage [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 (2017), The Maias – Story of a Portuguese Family [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(2014) and Disquiet (2010), to name but a few, Botelho has now made his first Saramago adaptation. “In order to rise to the challenge of adapting this notable fantastic-realistic novel” and in order for the “recreation of the environments (…) to be clear and self-evident”, the film was mainly shot in black and white, with a switch to colour in the final scenes “to transport the audience to the present day”. Filming took place between March and May 2019 in Coimbra, Entroncamento and Lisbon in an attempt to recreate the look and the feel of the Portuguese capital in the 1930s (complete with its specific architectural features).

Brazilian actor Chico Diaz plays the lead role of Ricardo Reis. Fernando Pessoa is played by Luís Lima Barreto, who previously worked with Botelho on Pilgrimage (2017), just like Catarina Wallenstein, who plays Lídia, a cleaning lady in love with Reis. João Barbosa, who also worked previously with Botelho, in The Maias – Story of a Portuguese Family (2014) and Disquiet (2010), plays Victor, an informant for the political police, and Victoria Guerra – who was part of the cast of Andrzej Żuławski’s Cosmos [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Victória Guerra
film profile
]
 – plays Marcenda, another guest at the hotel where Reis is staying and with whom Reis establishes an emotional connection.

João Ribeiro was in charge of the cinematography, and the editing has now been entrusted to João Braz, both of whom are long-serving crew members on João Botelho’s films. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis is being produced by Ar de Filmes (Portugal) in collaboration with Raccord Produções (Brazil) and the Saramago Foundation (PT), with the support of the Portuguese Film and Audiovisual Institute (ICA) and RTP (the Portuguese national broadcaster).

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