The last two weeks, I was in the fortunate position to be on a jury for the Vienna Film Festival Viennale. We were a party of five and had to choose one among twenty films to be sponsored for Austrian-wide release.
If you’ve ever watched twenty films, more or less in a row, and then had to decide which one of those you found best, you’ll know how hard of a decision that was. We did finally choose one, and while it’s a period film, I have to say that that wasn’t the main reason (on my part at least).
It’s the second film by Portuguese director and screenwriter Carlos Saboga, called “A Uma Hora Incerta” (At an uncertain time). It describes a rather unhealthy relationship between father and daughter, embedded in the framework of Portugal’s Salazar regime in the 1940s. It’s a very elegantly written script, which isn’t much of a surprise, considering Saboga penned many in his life, most noteworthy probably the one for “Mystérios de Lisboa” by director Raoul Ruiz.
The film is filled with characters that don’t explain more than they need to, as does the script in general. Many insinuations are clear, others are just touched upon. It creates a great base for a film that ends as much shrouded in mystery as it has started.
It also works well as a period piece. The Salazar regime in Portugal lasted from the 1930s until 1974, 36 years of which António de Oliveira Salazar was the head of state. It was a dictatorship (even though there are those who regard Salazar as a saviour of Portugal), and the film’s framework builds upon this atmosphere of secrecy, unchecked police power and the omnipresent danger of informants selling you out.
The film’s budget was constrained, so a lot of the things that take us back into the time, apart from costumes, are archival footage and radio broadcasts. They’re placed strategically throughout the film, giving us an idea of the time we’re in without being overbearing.
It is the sort of period film that excels at using an historical backdrop to tell a timeless story. The historical backdrop is important to explain the more obvious motivations of the characters, but the inner conflicts happen without it.
I’m happy we were able to help this film out. Ideally, soon a wider audience in Austria will get to see it, and if you happen to have the chance to catch it at a theater near you, do take it. You won’t regret it!