A look at silent cinema in Portugal

From Aurélio da Paz dos Reis to the end of silent film

The dawn of the Portuguese cinema was assigned to Aurélio da Paz dos Reis, in Oporto (1896).

Who was the first portuguese filmmaker? (21th Century) by CineblogVirtual Museum of Lusophony

Aurélio da Paz dos Reis was an amateur photographer and floricultor, and also “a person with strong critical, social and political characteristics”, according to José de Matos-Cruz. He presented his cinematograph in Oporto – he called it the Portuguese Kinematograph – showing his short features at the Teatro do Príncipe Real (Teatro Sá da Bandeira), on 12 November of 1896.

Workers Leaving the Confiança Factory (19th Century) by Aurélio da Paz dos ReisVirtual Museum of Lusophony

WORKER'S EXIT FROM THE CONFIANÇA SHIRT FACTORY*
Aurélio da Paz dos Reis | 1896

Inspired by Auguste and Louis Lumière's Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory/La Sortie de l'usine Lumière à Lyon (1895), Aurélio da Paz dos Reis directs Worker's Exit from the Confiança Shirt Factory (1896), the first Portuguese film, shot in Oporto.

*This movie title translation was employed after Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film, published in 2006 by Routledge - Taylor and Francis Group, and edited by Ian Aitken.

Site of the former Confiança Factory.

Invicta Film - The Death of a Dream (21th Century) by Mistério JuvenilVirtual Museum of Lusophony

Manuel Costa Veiga entered the exhibition business in the late 19th century. In 1899, he made Views of the Cascais Beach, his first film. He later founded Portugal Film, the first Portuguese production house.

In 1909, Portugália Film was established in Lisbon by João Freire Correia and Manuel Cardoso Pereira. In the same year, Júlio Costa and João Almeida founded the Empreza Cinematographica Ideal, aiming to ensure the production and distribution of Portuguese films.

Lusitania Film was a production company founded in 1918 and run by Celestino Soares and Luís Reis Santos, who remodeled the former Portugália Film studio in São Bento. Lusitania Film competed directly with Invicta Film, a production company founded in 1910 in Oporto. Invicta Film was founded by Alfredo Nunes de Mattos, who initially gave it his name; only in 1912 the company added “Invicta Film” to its corporate name.

Invicta Film - The Death of a Dream (21th Century) by Mistério JuvenilVirtual Museum of Lusophony

Initially, Invicta Film produced propaganda newsreels and documentaries, but after 1917 expanded its ambitions.
Acquiring new technical material and constructing studios and laboratories, Invicta Film begins the production of full-length feature films. In this context, foreign directors are hired to work at Invicta Film – such as Georges Pallu, Rino Lupo, Maurice Mariaud or Roger Lion.

Quinta da Prelada, a property that was purchased by Invicta Film for the construction of new and larger studios.

Invicta Film - The Death of a Dream (21th Century) by Mistério JuvenilVirtual Museum of Lusophony

Invicta Film was responsible for producing a significant number of relevant films in Portuguese cinema history. But the company shut down in 1928 after financial problems.

Also in the 1920s, new production companies were founded in Lisbon. Caldevilla Film, was founded by Raul de Caldevilla, Fortuna Films, was founded by Virgínia de Castro Almeida, and Pátria Film, was founded by Henrique Alegria after he left Invicta Film, in collaboration with Raul Lopes Freire.

Memorable films

Serra da Freita, in Arouca valley, where Rino Lupo's Women of Beira/Mulheres da Beira (1923) was shot.

The Crimes of Diogo Alves (20th Century) by João TavaresVirtual Museum of Lusophony

THE CRIMES OF DIOGO ALVES*
João Tavares | 1911

O Rapto de uma Actriz/ Abduction of an Actress (1907) by Lino Ferreira is the first fiction film made in Portugal. Later, João Tavares directed The Crimes of Diogo Alves, the second fiction film, produced by Portugália Film; in 1909 an unfinished version with the same title was released, directed by Lino Ferreira and João Freire Correia.

*We couldn't find an official or recurring movie title translation, so we have employed the method of literal translation of the original Portuguese title.

The Man With Crooked Eyes (20th Century) by Leitão de BarrosVirtual Museum of Lusophony

THE MAN WITH CROOKED EYES*
Leitão de Barros | 1918

The Man with Crooked Eyes is one of the three debut films by Leitão de Barros (the others are Mal de Espanha and Malmequer). According to José de Matos Cruz (1999), this film was destined to be part of a series of nine parts, but was interrupted by the financial problems of Lusitania Film. Keeping with the tradition of the French serial film, this picture has idiosyncratic characteristics, such as mystery, suspense and the thematics of blackmail and criminal investigation. The film remains unfinished to this day.

*We couldn't find an official or recurring movie title translation, so we have employed the method of literal translation of the original Portuguese title.

Doomed Love (20th Century) by Georges PalluVirtual Museum of Lusophony

AN OVERVIEW OF GEORGES PALLU'S FILMS

In the video clip, we can see an excerpt from Amor de Perdição/Doomed Love (1921).

Other movies directed by Georges Pallu:

Frei Bonifácio/Friar Bonifácio (1918)

Os Fidalgos da Casa Mourisca/The Noblemen of the Moorish House (1920)

O Destino/Destiny (1921)

O Primo Basílio/Cousin Bazilio (1923)

THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS
Maurice Mariaud | 1922

The Lighthouse Keepers was lost for many years. Finally, in 1993, the negative and a print were found at the Bolhão Palace. This movie follows a love triangle set at the coast (in Costa da Caparica) in the heart of a fishing community. Also known as O Faroleiro da Torre do Bugio/The Lighthouse Keeper from Bugio’s Tower, this film marks the directorial debut of Maurice Mariaud in Portugal, who also stars in it.

Women of Beira (20th Century) by Rino LupoVirtual Museum of Lusophony

WOMEN OF BEIRA*
Rino Lupo | 1923

This film marks Rino Lupo’s directorial debut at Invicta Film. It is a melodrama set in the municipality of Arouca, adapted from Abel Botelho's novel of the same name (1898). Similar to The Wolves/Os Lobos (1923), also directed by Rino Lupo, it has dazzling visuals - in fact, in Luis de Pina's History of Portuguese Cinema, Rino Lupo is described as a filmmaker who “painted with light”.

*We couldn't find an official or recurring movie title translation, so we have employed the method of literal translation of the original Portuguese title.

The Wolves (20th Century) by Rino LupoVirtual Museum of Lusophony

THE WOLVES*
Rino Lupo | 1923

Rino Lupo's The Wolves is a portrait of the ancient structures of Portuguese rurality, prevalent at the beginning of the 20th century: a village where “the woman occupies herself with the caring of the household or the collecting of wood(…) [and] the man takes care of the flock of sheep or the cutting of trees that will produce coal”, in the words of José de Matos-Cruz (1999). In this scenario, the village's population is surprised by the arrival of a fugitive.

*We couldn't find an official or recurring movie title translation, so we have employed the method of literal translation of the original Portuguese title.

TAXI Nº 9297*
Reinaldo Ferreira | 1927

This film is inspired by the mysterious murder of actress Maria Alves. The director, Reinaldo Ferreira, also a journalist popularly known as Reporter X, followed this tragic case and was inspired to make the film. The main character is military lieutenant Hair, an American who arrives in Portugal. Hair is invited by millionaire Horácio de Azevedo to spend a few days in Bretolho, where he owns a large property. He learns of the death of an actress named Raquel de Monteverde (in allusion to Maria Alves). What he did not know was that the taxi he took with Horacio de Azevedo to get to Bretolho, Taxi number 9297, was the same one in which Raquel de Monteverde was murdered.

*We couldn't find an official or recurring movie title translation, so we have employed the method of literal translation of the original Portuguese title.

Visionary authors

The beach of Nazaré, where films such as Nazaré, Beach of Fishermen/Nazaré, Praia de Pescadores (1929) and Maria of the Sea/Maria do Mar (1930), both directed by Leitão de Barros, were shot.

The Dance of the Paroxysms (20th Century) by Jorge Brum do CantoVirtual Museum of Lusophony

THE DANCE OF THE PAROXYSMS
Jorge Brum do Canto | 1929

This is an experimental film heavily influenced by French Impressionist Cinema. It is inspired by the poem Les Elfes by Leconte de Lisle, following the journey of a Knight (Gonthramm) in search of the Holy Grail. It is a radical visual experience in Portuguese cinema, with a very innovative use of the faux raccord, the moving camera and the overlapping of images. According to José de Matos Cruz (1999), this is the first Portuguese film to use the technique of panchromatic emulsion.

NAZARÉ, BEACH OF FISHERMEN*
Leitão de Barros | 1929

This film is considered the first docufiction of Portuguese cinema. Influenced by early works, such as Nanook of the North (1922), directed by Robert Flaherty, Nazaré, Beach of Fishermen is a portrait of the fishing community of Nazaré that combines documentary and fiction in the domain of visual anthropology.

*We couldn't find an official or recurring movie title translation, so we have employed the method of literal translation of the original Portuguese title.

Lisbon, Anecdotal Chronicle (20th Century) by Leitão de BarrosVirtual Museum of Lusophony

LISBON, ANECDOTAL CHRONICLE
Leitão de Barros | 1930

Lisbon, Anecdotal Chronicle is inspired by the city-symphony movies, such as Walter Ruttman’s Berlin - Symphony of a Metropolis/Berlin - Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (1927). Directed by Leitão de Barros, this movie follows the daily life of Lisbon’s inhabitants.

MARIA OF THE SEA
Leitão de Barros | 1930

Following Nazaré’s fishing community, this film has an indisputable place in Portuguese cinema. According to many authors, such as José Manuel Costa, one of the most important triumphs of the work was to manifest clear influences from the current European avant-garde movements. It is an unsettling narrative about the human condition and the harsh adversities faced by the fishing community, in which the maritime landscape propels the cycle of hatred and reconciliation.

Labor on the Douro River (20th Century) by Manoel de OliveiraVirtual Museum of Lusophony

LABOR ON THE DOURO RIVER
Manoel de Oliveira | 1931

Marking Manoel de Oliveira’s directorial debut, Labor on the Douro River is a short silent documentary that portrays the working life near the Douro river, in Oporto. It is deeply influenced by the European cinematographic movements, genres and achievements of its time, as the city symphonies and the Soviet cinema’s innovative use of montage.

Credits: Story

Ilustração da capa: Tiago Vieira da Silva
Tratamento da imagem: Joana Canas

REFERENCES:

Baptista, T. (2008). A Invenção do Cinema Português. Lisboa: Tinta-da-China.

Cruz, J. M. (1999). O Cais do Olhar: O cinema português de longa-metragem e a ficção muda. Lisboa: edição da Cinemateca Portuguesa.

Henriques, J. G. (2000, March 11). O mar por Leitão de Barros. Público.

Pina, L. (1986). História do Cinema Português. Lisboa: Publicações Europa-América.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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