This Monday, the cinema museum Cinemateca Portuguesa-Museu do Cinema in Lisbon is inaugurating the cycle “Os Mares da Europa” (The Seas of Europe), on the theme of the sea as a subject, primary scenario and symbolic element in filmmaking. It will be a long voyage, taking audiences from the western Atlantic to the extreme north and east of Europe and to different periods in the continent’s history.
Due to run until 31 May, the programme addresses the topic in detail, restricting and limiting it geographically to the European cinema that the sea inspired. In the opening session of “Os Mares da Europa” — an initiative that is part of the Cultural Programme of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union — three films will be exhibited, with a piano accompaniment by João Paulo Esteves da Silva.
La Mer (Baignade em Mer) by the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière is a small silent film, a minute long, as is Harry Short’s A Sea Cave Near Lisbon (which used Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell) in Cascais as its setting). Both are distant examples of the cinema’s interest in the sea: filmed in 1895 and the following year, respectively, the first included the Lumière brothers’ inaugural projection. This Monday’s session will end with Jean Epstein’s Finis Terrae, which dates from 1929.
As a theorist and filmmaker, Jean Epstein was one of the most important figures in French silent films: at the same time he made documentaries, semi-documentaries and films bordering on experimental cinema. Detesting actors, he invented the “actor-landscape” concept and used non-professionals exclusively in this Finis Terrae, whose weak narrative plot (“Life is about situations and not stories”, he used to say) turned the maritime landscape of Brittany into a character in the action. La Mer and Finis Terrae will be shown using digital copies.
Thus, “Mares da Europa” focuses on the presence of the sea in the cinema of Europe, from Portugal to Eastern Europe, from silent films to contemporary cinema. It is a programme that recounts how the subject of the sea was a great source for an important part of the best European fiction and the best European documentaries, representing both the core of these narratives and an artistic and poetic element in this work.
In this cycle, the audience will have the chance to see genre films (from the sea adventures of Sea Devils to the scientific predictions of F.R. 1 Antwortet Nicht and the animation of Song of the Sea), points of view in a more ‘film d’auteur’ style (Terje Vigen, Film Socialisme, À Beira do Mar Azul, La Pointe Courte, The Edge of the World), and essential documentaries both of yesterday’s cinema (Mor’vran, Drifters, Vittorio De Seta’s short films on the fishing trips of Italian coastal populations, Méditerranée) and today’s (the drama of Mediterranean immigration in Havarie).
While most of the choices are beyond discussion in a programme on this topic, the Cinemateca has also tried to include a small group of rarities that have never been shown there before, in particular from the final period of Soviet cinema.