Change of Life (Mudar de Vida)
May 19, 2012
Directed by Paulo Rocha. With Geraldo del Rey, Isabel Ruth, Maria Barroso
Portugal 1966, 35mm, b/w, 90 min. Portuguese with English subtitles
The second and arguably most important film by Paulo Rocha (b. 1935), one of the central figures of the Novo Cinema, Change of Live is a direct response to Oliveira’s Rite of Spring (and, indirectly, to Varda’s Pointe Courte) and an important precursor to the radical documentary-shaped fiction of Trás-os-Montes and, much later, the work of Pedro Costa and Miguel Gomes. Captivated by the remote Portuguese fishing village of Furadouro, Rocha chose not to make a traditional documentary but rather to engage the specificities of the people and place through fiction, crafting a melancholy story about a soldier’s return to a changing world. Inspired by his experience working with Oliveira on Rite of Spring and The Hunt, Rocha “cast” the local villagers as themselves, interspersed with experienced actors led by the great Isabel Ruth who would go onto become a Oliveira regular and an iconic presence in Costa’s Ossos. The poetry of the local vernacular is captured in the textured dialogue written by Reis, who met Rocha through Oliveira. Regardless of the steadily building critical acclaim which followed the release of Change of Life – and despite its controversial depiction of a disillusioned Angola War veteran – Rocha effectively ceased filmmaking until the 1980s.