The Wolves at the Barbican, 13 November 2011

The Wolves (1923)
The Wolves (1923)

What can I tell you about The Wolves? I’ve not seen it, but I hear very good things. It’s a Portuguese silent film, from 1923, shot on location and with non-professional actors. It was directed by Rino Lupo, who had previously worked elsewhere in Europe, most notably for Gaumont in Paris. He made one hit film in Portugal, Mulheres da Beira (1923), but it sounds as if The Wolves was a troubled production – Lupo was sacked by the studio after the film wrapped, for missing deadlines and for financial “disagreements”.
It’s an unusual film by all accounts, described as having a “paradoxical uniqueness”, and telling the story of a stranger’s damaging arrival in a rustic community, fresh out of jail. The title refers to the two lead characters: “wildly violent in their desires and impulses”. It’s a elemental film, we’re told, and that location photography is very important. “The sea and the mountains push heavily, encircling their psyches and ways of life.” Also, The Wolves features Portuguese cinema’s first scene of full nudity, if that is of any interest to you.

Having shunned the studio and the professional actor, and also the temptation to import a foreign, tried and tested formula that was common practice in Portugal and other peripheral film industries of the time, Lupo opened the way, some would say, to the specific irregularity of a cinema, that of Portugal, that only during the years of the dictatorship, and elsewhere recently, has walked the tracks of mainstream production.

The Wolves screens at the Barbican Cinema on 13 November at 4pm. This will be the film’s UK premiere, which will be accompanied by live music composed by Luis Soldado, conducted by Maestro Rui Pinheiro, and performed by Grupo de Música Contemporânea de Lisboa. The film will be introduced by Tiago Baptista, Rino Lupo’s biographer. For tickets, visit the Barbican website.

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