O Convento

  • 90'
  • Portugal
  • 1994
The presence of the international stars John Malkovich and Catherine Deneuve and an almost thriller-like story makes this film by the old and idiosyncratic Portuguese grand master Manoel de Oliveira one of his most accessible. Malkovich plays the American professor Michael Padovic and Deneuve plays his wife Hélène. Padovic works on a book in which he wants to prove that Shakespeare was really a Spaniard. He suspects that several crucial documents to prove his thesis are to be found in the remote monastery of Arrabida. Padovic and his wife are received at the monastery by its strange warden Baltar (played by Luis Miguel Cintra, who performs in many of de Oliveira's films). Baltar is bewitched by the secretive Hélène and tries to seduce her. In order to divert the attention of the professor, Baltar has him assisted in the library by the young and attractive Piedade. The handy Hélène and the devilish Baltar (and devilish should be taken literally in this context) are well matched. Events take increasingly absurd turns and end most unexpectedly, after which the married couple continues its ordinary life as if nothing had happened. This made De Oliveira wonder what that is: 'ordinary life'. He comes to the conclusion that ordinary life is an ideal and perfect balance between good and evil, one not being possible without the other. However in the monastery, the balance was briefly disrupted.
Director
Manoel de Oliveira
Countries of production
Portugal, France
Production Year
1994
Festival Edition
IFFR 1996
Length
90'
Medium
35mm
International title
The Convent
Languages
Portuguese, French, English
Producers
Mad Filmes, Gemini Films
Sales
UGC DA, IAF
Screenplay
Manoel de Oliveira
Cinematography
Mario Barroso
Editor
Manoel de Oliveira
Cast
John Malkovich, Leonor Silveira