Archive of films Christopher Columbus: The Enigma / Cristóvão Colombo: O enigma

Portugal / France
2007, 75 min

Section: Horizons
Year: 2008

Almost 100 years old, Manoel de Oliveira - as director and, this time around, actor to boot - takes us on a trip round the Old World and the New under the pretence of discovering the Portuguese origins of Christopher Columbus. A cinematic essay in which Oliveira allows us once again to experience the forgotten beauty that still remains in defiance of conquerors.


Manuel Luciano has been on the heels of Christopher Columbus all his life, in the Old World and the New. Only the discovery of Columbus’s family home will resolve the question of the seafarer’s origins. This is the aim of the expedition that we, as viewers, undertake with director Manoel de Oliveira and his grandson Ricardo Trêpa, who lend their faces to the Manuel of the film in the various periods in which it plays out. Christopher Columbus: The Enigma is another of Oliveira’s “journeys to the beginning of the world” (also the name of one of his films). At the biblical age of 99, not only is he a witness to another time himself but, as an artist with remarkable philosophical erudition, he knows how to “unlock” the past. The pretext for his travels is good-humoured as always (was Columbus Portuguese or not?), but the extraordinary humility of Oliveira’s last few films remains flawless this time around as well; just like the observation the director himself made about one of Donatello’s statues: “the simplicity of the Greeks, the realism of the Renaissance.”

About the director

Manoel de Oliveira (b. 1908, Oporto, Portugal) first entered the world of film in 1931. After several documentaries he debuted in 1941 with the Neo-Realist feature Aniki-Bobo, after which he turned his attention to other things. From the early 1970s he caused a stir with his loose tetralogy examining emotional (particularly romantic) frustration (1971–81). He won a Golden Lion in Venice for The Satin Slipper (1985), and in 2005 the French President named him Commander of the Legion of Honour for his life’s work. In his films he gradually sought to create a staged reality with emphasis on the performance of strong actors (Michel Piccoli, Irene Papas, Catherine Deneuve). His later works to be screened at Karlovy Vary include Party (1996), Abraham Valley (1993), inspired by the novel Madame Bovary, and, last year, Belle toujours.


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Tel: +33 615453221

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Horizons
Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Screenplay: Manoel de Oliveira
Dir. of Photography: Sabine Lancelin
Editor: Valérie Loiseleux
Producer: François d’Artemare
Production: Filmes do Tejo
Cast: Ricardo Trêpa, Manoel de Oliveira, Leonor Baldaque, Maria Isabel de Oliveira, Luis Miguel Cintra
Contact: Rezo


Laurent Danielou

Producer, Sales Agent


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