Horse Money

Film, Drama
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Horse Money

Outsider Portuguese director Pedro Costa returns with another uncompromising, engrossing film

One of the most recognisable faces of Portuguese cinema lives in a Lisbon slum. His name is Ventura, he’s a Cape Verdean immigrant and this is the second Pedro Costa film (after 2006’s ‘Colossal Youth’) in which he’s pulled double duty as both star and subject.

‘Horse Money’ watches Ventura as he shuffles through the purgatorial hallways of a cavernous hospital that seems to have released its patients and left their ghosts behind. There’s no linear plot to speak of, only a string of encounters with the other lost souls who Ventura finds in the film’s labyrinth of shadows. Vitalina (Vitalina Varela), a widow who’s returned to Lisbon for her husband’s funeral, is the most memorable of these phantoms as her sorrow grips the screen.

The film begins with a degree of hyper-specificity that it sheds over time. At first it feels like an intimate knowledge of Portugal’s sociopolitical climate is required to follow the action, and many viewers will have fled for the exits before the film taps into universal undercurrents of confusion and displacement, as Ventura reenacts traumatic moments from his revolutionary youth. But the film’s difficult approach allows for a singularly vivid expression of dementia: 'I speak to the walls,' Ventura mutters to no one in particular. ‘Horse Money’ (which borrows its title from a steed Ventura once knew), is an ordeal, but you’ll be glad that Costa was there to help Ventura’s words find their way through the cracks.

By: David Ehrlich

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Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday September 18 2015
Duration: 105 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Pedro Costa
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