Mysteries of Lisbon

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 12:00am

Raul Ruiz wasn't even expected to finish this film: midway through shooting, which began in 2008, the sexagenarian was diagnosed with liver cancer, and only timely surgery saved his life. Incredibly, he recovered and completed Mysteries of Lisbon - which would have been a mammoth achievement for a healthier, younger filmmaker. Clocking in at 4?hours, Ruiz's adaptation of Camilo Castelo Branco's novel provides an intriguingly complex spin to a story that is already very dense. It revolves around Pedro da Silva, who begins the film as a nameless young boy (Joao Luiz Arrais) and then gradually discovers his noble roots under the aegis of his guardian, Father Dinis (Adriano Luz). His mother is a countess (Maria Joao Bastos, left with Luz) forcibly separated from Pedro's father and confined to a castle by her brutal husband. This revelation kick-starts Pedro's self-discovery and rite of passage, a process interwoven on screen with repeated flashbacks and digressions into other threads in which the same set of characters appear in different guises. While not Ruiz's best work, the film ranks as one of his most playful pieces. Apr 2, 2.30pm, HK Cultural Centre.