Manoel de Oliveira – A Caça AKA The Hunt (1964)


“A caça” is one Oliveira’s most distressing and mysterious films. Two boys, Roberto and José, enter a hunting ground, flooded with marshes. José falls into a quagmire and Roberto runs to the village looking for help. The locals form a human chain to save the victim…

“I conceived ‘A caça’ after reading in a newspaper that a boy was sucked down into a pit of quicksand and the other, due to fear, fled without helping him. The movie is based on this event.” In this laconic way, Oliveira summarizes his purpose. His first intention was to make a feature film about such an anguishing event.

But “A caça” transcends this anecdote. From the Brechtian opening shot accompanying the main titles, Oliveira suggests a multiple initiation voyage: from the city to the countryside, from civilization to virgin nature, from juvenile laughs to the old man’s terrible cry (“A mão, a mão”: “¡The hand! ¡The hand!”) that expresses the ancient fear about losing contact with the tangible world. In “A caça”, the rough landscape is indifferent to human drama. It allows people to come into its territory but in order to set them a trap; like a great carnivorous plant that devours animals and people, which are unsuspiciously close to each other. (“If animals were good, they would not kill each other”, the boys discuss in their way to the marshes.)

It is striking that this rough fiction has been qualified as a documentary. Oliveira’s visual language is realistic and brutal (as Franju used in it Le sang des bêtes, visually mentioned by the Portuguese director). But his gaze seeks to penetrate into the secret world hiding behind the visible world, one of the trademarks of Oliveira’s cinema.

“Oliveira’s Buñueliana, violent facet finds in A caça his more explicit materialization (…) And, certainly, it is the strongest artistic crystallization of the “Desespero português” of the 60s” (Jorge Leitão Ramos: Dicionário do Cinema Português 1962-1988. Lisboa: Caminho: 69. Found in: link)
“Oliveira’s devastating short is a menacing study of violence and frustrated masculinity that chronicles the strange accident that befalls an all-male hunting party. ‘The Hunt’ was among Oliveira´s first works to be universally praised for the strength of its vision and storytelling power”. (Harvard Film Archive)

Last remark: In his original version, the movie ends tragically. So the censor forced Oliveira to shot a more optimistic end.


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