Bocage, the Triumph of Love

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


The work of Manuel Maria du Bocage (1765–1805), the foremost romantic poet in Portugal, is an impassioned call for humanistic liberation from repressive morality. The result is the most controversial, popular, and sometimes obscene Portuguese poetry of its day. Brazilian filmmaker Limongi Batista pays tribute to Bocage’s celebration of the flesh by stringing together several of his poems into a pageant that illustrates the poet’s style more than his life. The film is raucous and refined at the same time, a riot of sensuality combined with an aesthete’s disregard for cinematic convention and narrative continuity.

Sexually, there’s something here for everyone: besides steamy hetero and lesbian sex scenes, there’s an abundance of male nudity that recalls the ritualized homoeroticism of Pasolini and Jarman. This use of ritual and tableau over narrative points to Limongi Batista’s parallel career as a theatre director; in fact, most of the actors are new to film, coming from a troupe that he assembled for a production of Camus’s Caligula.

Thematically, the film attempts a difficult sleight of hand. As the official synopsis says, “The poet Bocage . . .journeys to the four continents of the eighteenth-century Portuguese empire and ends up establishing in Portuguese-speaking countries the liberating and revolutionary force of Love, which triumphs in the miscegenation of the human races.” In other words, by focusing on a central figure in the canon of Portuguese poetry, Limongi Batista transforms the monuments of European culture and colonialism into a celebration of the mulicultural and marginal.

Djalma Limongi Batista, Director
Djalma Limongi Batista was born in Manaus, Amazon State, Brazil, in 1947. He graduated in cinema from the University of São Paulo. He has directed short films and two features: Asa Branca—Um Sonho Brasileiro (Asa Branca—A Brazillian Dream) about a soccer player, and Brasa adormecida (Sleeping Ember), a revival of a Brazilian classic film of the silent era, Humberto Mauro’s Braza dormida. He also works as a theatre director and photographer.

— David Pendleton

Screening Details

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