THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA
(O Estranho Caso de Angelica)
The Strange Case of Angelica is an ostensible attempt on Manoel de Oliveiras part to make a ghost story. The film has all the elements out of which you might expect a standard ghost story to emerge a man (played by de Oliveiras grandson Ricardo Trepa) becoming obsessed with a beautiful dead woman after her image appears to move in the photos he has taken of her corpse; her ghost continuing to appear to him; his obsession taking over to the exclusion of all else, including those around him thinking he is going crazy. You would expect all of this to coalesce together into something akin to Shutter (2008) about ghostly photographs, or films like The Forgotten One (1989), The Returning (1991) or The Footstep Man (1992) about lonely men falling for ghostly women and trying to cross over and join them.
Going to watch The Strange Case of Angelica in a festival setting, you expect a work of class but I found it an intensely frustrating film. Perhaps the greatest complaint you might make is that it is tedious. Nothing ever seems to happen in fact, that is an understatement, it verges on the soporifically slow at times. It is frequently difficult to see where the film is trying to go or what point Manoel de Oliveira is trying to make. Most of the film consists of people talking lots of scenes with the landlady and three lodgers in the boarding house as they discuss an engineering project that has been cancelled in between speculating about the oddness of Ricardo Trepas behaviour, or scenes with Trepa becoming fascinated with taking photos of men working in the fields that have no lap over with his obsession with the ghost. Yet for all that, we never gain any insight into Isaac as a character like why he becomes so obsessed with this woman. Is he someone lonely of heart, has feelings for her or just following an obsessive connection? We never know because he remains a blank as a character. When he dies and goes off to join the ghost woman at the end, we feel less like two lovers are being united than we could care less about either of them. Nor do de Oliveiras orchestration of the ghostly apparitions help the woman is an optically overlaid figure in black-and-white with some spotty visuals like something that might have sufficed for ghostly apparitions in 1940s films but hardly today.
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)