Vegetable thought in Edgar Pêra’s Lisbon Revisited

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Perhaps the most mysterious of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronymic exudations, Bernardo Soares is the author of the Book of Disquiet, an unparalleled artistic endeavour which was first published only many years after Pessoa’s disappearance. In one of the fragments that became part of the intricate composition of this “book,” Soares asks such questions as the following: “What do I know about the difference between a tree and a dream? I can touch the tree; I know that I dream.” It was through the idea of vegetable tangibility that the Portuguese film director and multi-artist Edgar Pêra made a film out of the words of one other of Pessoa’s texts – Lisbon Revisited (2014), which stemmed from the heteronymic incarnation of Álvaro de Campos. In Campos’s poem, the homonymous “Lisbon Revisited” (1923), the poet disowns metaphysics, appealing instead to the affirmation of the “empty and perfect truth” of the sky, of the river, and of the cityscape of Lisbon. In one of the possible interpretations of the poem, these atmospheres would function as anchoring device for use by the solitary subject onto the kingdom of a “vegetal academia of silences,” of a “confusion of entanglements” in which the “greenness of the trees is part of my blood” (to return to the verbal formulas of the semi-heteronym Bernardo Soares). My intent in the present essay is to analyse the manner in which the director’s use of negative film and of 3D image technology underlines the expression of the materiality of the plants alluded to in the enchanting lines of Pessoa’s multifarious voices. I expect to be able in that same move to demonstrate that Edgar Pêra’s understanding of the modernist poet’s technique of depersonalization implies an almost absolute absence of the figure of human beings in the film: in fact, the human presence is practically only made noticeable by the voice – the materiality of words; yet, when the film editing adjusts this materiality to vegetable images it causes what could be considered the vocalization of the reason of plants, a vegetable thought as it were – a thought that is no longer human.

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Cecilie Klingenberg