“Luz de Presença” seen through the eyes of Alejo Franzetti, member of the preselection team of Berlinale Shorts.
There is a Light that Never Goes Out
Gonçalo loves Jorge and has a letter for him.
“At this point, the only thing you can do is sleep,” a voice tells Gonçalo through the intercom, at the beginning of “Luz de Presença” (“A Present Light”). But Gonçalo can’t sleep. There is nothing more unbearable to a broken heart than the loneliness of night. A night can be endless if you don’t want to sleep alone.
Gonçalo almost dies as he tries to deliver his letter, falling off his motorbike. The delivery fails, though he does get what he was looking for: a slap – a punch to the head (and to the heart). But she’s there to help him: to survive and go on despite his unrequited love.
Is she an angel? A presence of light that has come to help Gonçalo deal with the absence of love? A beautiful figure walking through the nocturnal, rainy streets of Porto.
Yes, she is an angel. An angel of broken hearts. In a significant scene full of tenderness and saudade, she sings for a large group of men who gaze at her with devotion.
We can definitely say that “Luz de Presença” is a modern melodrama with an intelligent dramaturgical structure that makes a virtuous use of its beautiful close-ups. But it’s also – perhaps more importantly – a sensitive film about an encounter, about companionship, about emotional solidarity.
In “Luz de Presença”, Diogo Costa Amarante declares his love for his characters. He films them with the same tenderness and understanding that fills the eyes of the nocturnal angel as she sings (in Latin), in front of the large group of devoted men, a fragment of one of Vivaldi’s Introduzioni:
Let the winds be hushed,
let the fields freeze,
the flowers and leaves will not
be drenched with the water they love.
With the river dead
even the moon and the sun
will be deprived of their own light.
With her strength, wisdom and pure love, she has rescued Gonçalo – and his letter. “It’s too beautiful,” she says after reading it. He shouldn’t give it to Jorge. As with every love letter, the exercise of writing those labyrinths of feelings may actually be more important than the answer of the recipient.
Alejo Franzetti is an Argentinean director based in Berlin. He is both a member of the selection committees of Berlinale Shorts and Kurzfilmfestival Hamburg.