LISBON REVISITED : the mariage of picture and sound in Wender’s Lisbon Story and Jakimowski’s Imagine


Philip Winter is invited by his filmmaker friend, trying to realise a silent movie uncontaminated by the history of cinema. The sound specialist is supposed to save the picture. When he arrives, it turns out that Fredrich Monroe has dissapeared, leaving the appartament filled with a bunch of photographing kids and the unfinished film only.
The dissappearance of the friend turns out to be salutary for Winter as it pushes him to discovering the hidden alleys of Lisbon under the pretext of searching Monroe.

Friedrich Monroe seems to be an incarnation of Fernando Pessoa, iconic Lisbon poet who has spent his life wandering through the meanders of his own personality, so diverse- he used the heteronimes of Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Alvaro the Campos, each one having their own story and writing style – that providing him a sufficent excuse, to cut off from the outside world.


The isolation however doesn’t carry the expected relief and the same goes with sacryfing the sensuality in favor of objectivity – Monroe doesn’t find a desired truth. What turns out to be a rescue is the return to the sound. Old friends bring back the noises of Lisbon to the condemned material and thereby they regress the interference, restoring the initial truth.
This way, Lisbon Story practically becomes a document about the formation of document.
It’s also a love letter to a city frozen in time, which atmosphere is extracted at the end with an inseparable mariage of picture and sound. It’s an ode to Fellini and other neorealism masters and a tribute to these ones which we cannot see but we can hear. But first of all it’s an attempt to answer the question: what is cinema and what is it for? In the climax scene  legendary Portugese director Manoel de Oliveira tries to define it:  [scene]

In background memory, I mean in the cinema, the camera in film may set a time but that time has already passed. In the bottom of what makes the film is to revive the ghost of that time. And are we sure that the moment existed outside the film? Or the film is the guarantee of existence of that time? I do not know.



Imagine takes the thesis further – the sound is not only an essential component of reality but it can create it by itself.


Jakimowski takes us for an unusual trip to the world of sound. Not without a reason; we discover Lisbon with the ‘eyes’ of blind people.
The teacher using controversial methods (excellent Edward Hoggs) appears in the rehabilitation center and shakes the calm world of isolated mentees of the instituton. Until some moment the spectactor doesn’t even realise that he is disabled; he moves without a cane and hides the glass eyes behind the dark glasses. Also the children living in the center are doubting in his blindness and at every step they do their little tricks, trying to overthrow his declarations.


I stumbled across this movie randomly during some lazy Sunday afternoon, switching the TV channels in search of anything valuable. The screenshot sinking in southern sun drew my attention; rapidly I soaked into the story. What’s interesting, the movie was emited with audiodescrition which at the begginning seemed only a stylistic device.

Eva makes a first step out of the center’s zone. She checks the surface of the pavement with her foot. She paces carefully, one, second, third step, until she gets to the edge.

I closed my eyes to discover the world as the blind character does it; to feel her insecurity when confronting the noisy silence and the salvation she finds in the sounds with a little help from the teacher.
Even without audiodescription, the film is a refreshing contra for the majority of productions focused on the picture, at the same time remaining breathtaking at the visual side. Lisbon is supposed to talk to us with sounds as it was before in Lisbon Story. The main characters of both movies are coming out across the traditional sense of perception. Intentional limitation of the featured world to a couple of streets and rooms brings the perception of the blind people closer to the audience. Manipulation of the elipses and the off screen space helps. Many things, as the characters, we are forced to imagine.


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