A Lisbon Story – Movie Review

I first encountered Wim Wenders when I saw ‘Wings of Desire’ at the cinema some years ago. This film was later remade and entitled ‘City of Angels’ which you might remember. Whilst I enjoyed the latter, it didn’t come close to the poetic imagery of Wenders original which I found utterly beautiful.

A few months ago I was searching for movies in Portuguese and stumbled upon ‘A Lisbon Story’. As soon as I saw that it was written and directed by Wenders I knew I was in for a treat: my favourite city through the eyes of one of my favourite directors!

Getting a copy of the dvd however proved harder than anticipated. It wasn’t available on Amazon UK and I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere else. Undaunted however I plumped for buying a Polish edition from a seller on Ebay, ignoring the fact that there were no English subtitles. It turned out to be a good decision.

Our hero Phillip Winter (played by Rüdiger Vogler) is a German sound man who is called urgently to Lisbon on a postcard from his friend and movie maker Friedrich Monroe. English Friedrich is having great problems finishing the film he is making about Lisbon and needs Winter there with him.

I quickly discovered that a lack of English subtitles wasn’t going to be a problem. Whilst there is a reasonable amount of dialogue in German from Phillip, a great deal of the film concentrates on sound and visual impact. This echoes the obsessions of the two main characters. Simply watching Winter’s hilarious journey to Portugal at the beginning was enough to make me realise that much of the story was going to be told through means other than speech. Vogler is an incredibly expressive actor capable of strong drama and comedy at the flick of a switch.

When Winter finally arrives in Portugal he finds Friedrichs home empty. He does however discover the reels of film his friend has been shooting and decides to start recording the sound for the images he has found. Soon after, he encounters the beautiful Teresa from Madredeus. It turns out they are staying in the same building and he begins to fall in love with her when he hears her singing ‘Ainda’

This was the point that had me in tears as the song is so haunting and encapsulates Portuguese ‘saudade’. I think anyone would fall in love with her after hearing that song!

So ensues an gentle exploration of Lisbon through sound and vision, the intrigue of the mysterious boy who seems to be following Winter, a quiet love story and comic sketches that will have you laughing out loud. All leading to a surreal and thought provoking denoument that questions the very nature of film and proposes the idea of ‘the unseen image’.

I honestly cannot fault this film. Perfectly acted, beautiful cast, glorious images of Lisbon, thought provoking, wonderful music, delightfully funny. I’ve already watched it three times and could easily watch it again.

Last but not least the soundtrack was released by Madredeus under the title ‘Ainda’ which I also highly recommend.

If you love Lisbon, if you love great movies, then this one is for you. One hour and forty minutes of bliss.

12 comments for “A Lisbon Story – Movie Review

  1. Madalena
    November 13, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    I love Dao…… nao we can buy here vinho verde tambem….. next time you will be watching FADOS…. bom apetite 🙂

  2. Madalena
    November 13, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    it should be “now” instead of “nao”- the first line in my post above…. 😉 sorry, Madredeus inside my head and it is easy for mistake…. 🙂

  3. keith
    November 7, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Hi Lily,
    I also would highly recommend this movie but I am kind of partial to the works of Wim Wenders anyway. Beautiful music and plenty of great locations around Lisbon are the important aspects of this movie for me. I also would note that Rudiger Vogler plays a character named Phillip Winter in another Wenders film, Until The End Of The
    World. I found that kind of amusing.
    Another film with some outside scenes in Lisbon is Women, also
    titled Elles. I liked this film, great international cast. Not a lot of
    scenes recognizable as Lisbon but great movie none the less.

  4. Lily
    November 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Keith
    I love Wim Wenders too. I fell in love with Wings of Desire! I didn’t know that about Winter’s character appearing in Until the End of the World. I shall have to watch that now as well.
    Thanks for the Women film tip too – I have just put it in my wish list on Amazon 🙂

  5. keith
    November 9, 2010 at 12:13 am

    I forgot to mention there are quite a few movies out there that are titled Women. The one I am referring to stars 5 international female stars and the only male star is the most famous Portuguese actor, Joaquim de Almeida.

  6. Alex
    January 7, 2012 at 12:35 am

    for a prospective visitor to the City it might be handy to know where exactly the movie was filmed… And/or where in the City the chances of enountering the spirit captured by Wenders are best, Profuse thanks in advance to anybody able and willing to help.

    • January 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Alex. Some of the movie was filmed at Palacio Belmont (which is now a hotel) on Pateo Dom Fradique (that’s the name of the road). It’s not far from St.George’s Castle (Castelo do Sao Jorge). I think the essence of the movie is captured in the old quarter called Alfama – tiny winding streets which are what remained after the earthquake which destroyed much of Lisbon.

  7. javier
    July 16, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Hello, im an international bloger and will be visiting lisboa this weekend and would like to get in touch with someone who loves the city and would like to give me inside tips to publish on my blog. please email me.

  8. richard taylor
    November 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I’m lucky enough to have an English version of this delightful film – I think I purchased it from the main tourist office in Lisbon but on trying to obtain a second copy I haven’t seen it there since. All your comments spot on, but Ainda certainly a highlight. Actually, Wenders seems during this film to unerringly pick the right Madredeus song for the right occasion. Liked his camera shots,too. Only seems to drag a bit during the religious broadcast bit, but I’ve tended to watch this film late at night and I’ve been a bit sleepy by that point in the movie, so perhaps I need to watch this when I’m less obviously tired!

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