Can a handful of films screened at the annual Venice Film Festival enlighten us on the workings of power in contemporary society? Let’s have a look at how they depict power’s more tragic aspects.
The Portuguese film A herdade (The Domain) by Tiago Guedes resembles the Italian Bertolucci’s epos 1900 (1976) – where we follow the powerful and their subjects through several generations. A herdade follows the wealthy Fernandes family: 1946 – The father raises his son, João, with brutal discipline; 1973 – Portugal’s nepotistic and fascist upper class tries to force the new head of the family, a grown-up João (played by Albano Jerónimo) to support them – but he resists even though related. He is not corrupt.
As the Portuguese Carnation Revolution overthrows the authoritarian regime of Estados Novos in 1974, the rich fascists are forced to flee to Brazil. João, on the other hand, has remained an independent landowner – and stays. He is challenged by the adversities of the age, but remains a wealthy plutocrat, just like how his father raised him. He likes to have some fun with the women in the workforce – and, slowly but surely, decadence sets in. 1991 – the estate, with its enormous grain and rice fields, which had supplied Portugal for years are sold off. Piecemeal and riches have dwindled. Now, the same thing happens to the family, who starts to desert him. Too many lies have been told. João‘s destiny has caught up with him. His wife has left him. His young son remembers the cold baths he was given as a child, which were supposed to make him stronger. Yet, in a fight, he tells his father that his emotions have stayed just as ice-cold as he walks out the door. Abandoned by everyone, João gallops on his beloved black stallion in a desperate craze, until the horse finally plunges and has to be shot. Another casualty. With that, the film ends where it began, with an aging João seeking refuge in the little ruin where he used to play in his childhood. Still alone.
Too much power tends to, yet again, end with tragedy and corruption.
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