The Franco-Portuguese history drama “Linhas de Wellington” [Eng. Title: Lines of Wellington] is based on events surrounding the Peninsular War of the Napoleonic era, when British forces under Wellington helped Portugal defend its territory against invading French forces. When the film’s original director Raul Ruiz passed away during production in 2011, the job was taken over by his widow and long-time film collaborator Valeria Sarmiento – an editor and noted film director in her own right.
Rather than focusing on the war and the renowned Lines of Wellington itself, the film looks at the invasion’s impact on troops and particularly the ordinary folk at the time – the disruption to their normal lives and the hardship caused through displacement and plunder, to highlight the fact that the horror of war will always stay the same as it ever was, no matter how many the protocols and treaties are signed.
The multilingual film, running close to two and half hours, has epic credentials and follows the fortunes of several characters as they make their way south towards Lisbon. The characters include troops bearing various colours, and also citizens – rich and poor. It is also star-studded, with big names such as John Malkovich (as Wellington), Marisa Paredes, Michel Piccoli, Catherine Denevue, and Isabelle Huppert making an appearance, alongside local stars such as Nuno Lopes and Carloto Cotta.
But with all its artistic and technical credentials, it would perhaps have better suited a TV series than a full-length feature (there was also a TV series in addition to the film). The main characters – and there are over a dozen of them, are almost equal in their importance to a narrative that can easily be trimmed into little episodes. The screenplay is therefore the film’s main drawback because it takes a while for us to get acquainted with its characters that sometimes, is a bit too late. Which is a shame, because many of these characters have beautiful stories that deserve to be explored on their own. Like Dona Filipa (Marisa Paredes), Vicente de Almeida (Filipe Vargas), and his idiot-muse (João Arrais). Having said that, and despite it being aimed at a native audience, the film is also informative with captivating drama in patches, and has a good cast appearing in a decent production, which makes it Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Soraia Chaves, Victória Guerra, and Joana de Verona
Local beauties Soraia Chaves and Victória Guerra appear nude in separate scenes as prostitute Martírio and precocious middle class teenager Clarissa respectively. There is also brief nudity from Joana de Verona who plays the rebel Brites, whose character in a shocking scene, gets raped by French soldiers after her crying baby is killed by being thrown against a wall.