By Luciana Leitao
It is definitely one of the darkest periods of Portugal’s history and it is beautifully depicted in Ivo M. Ferreira’s film. “Letters from War” sets the action back in Angola, in the 1960s, when the former Portuguese colonies were fighting for independence.
These are the letters sent by one of the greatest Portuguese authors of all times, António Lobo Antunes — at the time, a doctor and an aspiring writer —, during his expedition to Angola, to his pregnant wife. Throughout the film, what impressed me the most was that I was seeing my father, inside the screen, imagining his long days in Angola, longing for the return to a normal routine, aspiring to be set free from a war he did not understand. António was my father. And, if you are a Portuguese man or woman in your thirties or forties, he is also, most likely, your father.
It is one of the most traumatic moments for Portugal’s history due to the impact it had in so many young men’s — and their families’ — lives. It was a fraternal war, no one really understood — and, until this day, fails to be explained.
Ivo M. Ferreira dared to choose this moment in Portugal’s history, through the eyes of one of the most important figures of our literature — if not, the most important —, and using the female voice of the actress Margarida Vila-Nova.
She barely appears, but she is the narrator, using her fantastic voice, a flawless punctuation, breathing in the right moment, interpreting those letters filled with love and poetry, making us believe these were hers. She was António’s wife. She was António. She was my father. She was my mother.
The black and white scenery, which Ivo, in the day of “Letters from War” Asian première, in Galaxy Macau, explained as being a natural reflexion of the colours of the existing archive, was perfect. No colours could have expressed so much pain in a better way. The long shots, the sublime subtlety of certain scenes, the silences in the right place — perfect.
I was in Angola. I travelled to that horrific scenery. I was there, looking at my father and mother, during those two years of their lives, which, until this day, they claim to have been the most important ones. And I could feel the anguish of being so far away from everything, changing every day into a colder being.
Thank you, Ivo, for taking me there.