João Pedro Rodrigues won the Best Director award at the 2016 Locarno Film Festival for The Ornithologist, a surreal drama (and one of our favorites of the festival) following Fernando (Paul Hamy), a solitary ornithologist searching for an endangered black stork along a remote river in Portugal. Fernando is swept away in the river, only to be rescued by two girls. Afterwards, Fernando travels further into the wilderness in a journey that mimics the life of Saint Anthony of Padua.
“How do you portray a Saint as a transcendental being?,” the director told us at Locarno. “But portraying a man or a woman. So you have to give him or her features. There’s the model. Many painters painted models as the Virgin Mary or what. But they’re all mythical figures and you don’t know if they existed or not. But I like his idea of, “How do you embody transcendency? How do you incarnate transcendency?” I think it’s what most interests me.”
Ahead of a release next week, the first trailer has arrived and can be seen below.
Fernando (Paul Hamy), a handsome solitary ornithologist looking for endangered black storks along a remote river in northern Portugal, is swept away by the rapids. He is rescued by two Chinese pilgrim girls on their way to Santiago de Compostela, but they prove too possessive, so he must escape from them, venturing deeper into the wilderness. His journey turns into a Homeric spiritual quest, taking him on a path that comes to resemble the adventures of St. Anthony, driven to extreme, transformative actions. On his strange odyssey Fernando encounters demonic animistic folk marauding at night, bare-breasted equestrian Amazons speaking Latin, and a handsome deaf-mute shepherd named Jesus. In the end Fernando becomes a different man: inspired, multifaceted, and finally enlightened. A mind-blowing, mysterious, mesmerizing and surreal film, filled with beautiful visions, transgressive eroticism and unexpected humor.
The Ornithologist opens at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on June 23.