Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
In majestic northeastern Portugal, solitary ornithologist Fernando (the body of Paul Hamy, the voice of director João Pedro Rodrigues) kayaks along a river peering through binoculars in search of rare birds. Distracted, he is caught in the rapids and ends up being saved by two Chinese pilgrims, lost on their way to Santiago de Compostela. This is not good. Eventually extricating himself from the women, Fernando forges his own path, and the further he ventures into the forest, the more The Ornithologist morphs into an exploration of the realm of fantasy, as Fernando undergoes a series of extreme masochistic trials on the road to spiritual enlightenment in this mythopoetic Western-inflected wilderness.
This Birdman’s journey comes to echo that of Anthony of Padua, Portugal’s most beloved saint. Indeed, the director litters his film with religious iconography and artistic references. But Rodrigues’ blasphemous exploration of the transformative process of religious awakening, through a serious of wild—at times sexual—adventures focusing on the pleasure and the pain of the body is a modern film, in line with Godard’s Hail Mary or Buñuel’s The Milky Way. A trained ornithologist himself, Rodrigues has made what is likely his most personal film since O Fantasma and the fascinating The Ornithologist launches his filmography into new territory.
Best Director, Locarno 16