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IFFR 2023 Big Screen Competition

Review: The Nothingness Club - Não Sou Nada


- Edgar Pêra’s latest feature is an electrifying cinematic experience that oozes the restless essence of Fernando Pessoa

Review: The Nothingness Club - Não Sou Nada
Miguel Borges and Victoria Guerra in The Nothingness Club - Não sou Nada

Life is filled with paradoxes: nothingness can walk hand in hand with wholeness. This is one of the feelings that one may experience while reading the title of The Nothingness Club - Não sou nada [+see also:
interview: Edgar Pêra
film profile
, Edgar Pêra’s latest feature, taking part in the Big Screen Competition at IFFR. It’s a title that leads us straight to Álvaro de Campos, one of Fernando Pessoa’s many heteronyms, and his poem A Tabacaria. But this is just the first of many steps in a film that looks into Pessoa’s writings, draws inspiration from them and then moves on, into another dimension – a place to capture what Pessoa’s writings had and still have to offer, allowing us to dream with (or through) him.

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Pêra’s film whisks us away to a space resembling a publishing house, where one can see most of Pessoa’s (many) heteronyms typing, creating, living and breathing. Through these offices and corridors, we are led to a materialisation of what could have been this poet’s mind. But there’s more besides one’s mind: we also have a psychiatric ward, where Pessoa (Miguel Borges) is being held. Physicality is crucial: not just in terms of the decor and locations, but mainly in the way emotions and thoughts can be represented with moving images. That’s one of the most outstanding elements of this film: there are moments in which layer upon layer of images combine to create an uncanny but wonderful sensation of never being fully able to reach or grasp something, whilst being completely immersed in it. Confusion leads to understanding, with editing that manages to create great balance and a sense of fluidity. Despite how messy and loud things can get in this dream-like universe, it always ends up making perfect sense, even when we’re faced with a constant game of truth (real) or lie (unreal).

The narrative itself ends up following a classical trajectory, regardless of all the deviations along the way – as in life itself. It’s a story in which someone can untie all the knots of their inner struggles through love. With an on-point soundtrack and sound design, we’re left wandering around but are never allowed to stand still. One thing that could be considered as a shortcoming, as it gives a certain plastic, “make believe” impression, is related to some of the costume design elements: this is something that is more noticeable in the beginning but ends up fading away as we progress through this “trip”.

Looking back at the beginning, this is a work that gives us a glimpse of the essence of Fernando Pessoa, and it is naturally, inevitably drawn to and driven by Álvaro de Campos’ electrifying, ecstatic anti-hero energy that not only fills the big screen, but also might just cause it to burst. This is particularly noticeable in a scene where Campos (Albano Jerónimo) becomes a kind of conductor for the other heteronyms’ typewriters and their mechanical sounds. He also becomes the driving force that enables this “cinenigma” to be fully fleshed out. Jerónimo’s brilliant, outlandish performance might also play a big part in this. In fact, the whole cast gives truly mesmerising performances, almost casting a spell on the audience.

At the end, one is left with everything that one could possibly have been looking for: a feeling of general wholesomeness that can arise from coming a tiny bit closer to this multitude of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms and the possibilities of the moving image. It feels like a place to socialise, a club that we would gladly frequent with a glass of wine.

The Nothingness Club - Não Sou Nada is a production by Bando À Parte, which is also selling it overseas. Nitrato Filmes is in charge of its national distribution.

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