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The transient nature of poetry has not escaped cinematic art. German director Wim Wenders and Swiss director Alan Tanner address the ghostly presence of Fernando Pessoa in two films.

Fernando Pessoa is one of the most enticing mysteries of twentieth century literature. The poet’s multiple personality, that constellation of individuals centered in one person, makes him a vivid and vibrant metaphor for human identity. Pessoa belongs to the lineage of writers who led the misty existences of men without traits. With a well-planned existential strategy, Pessoa was able to isolate himself to allow others who wrote his masterpieces to emerge, “The Drama in Ghent,” a collection of poems written by his variations that he left stored in a legendary and enchanting chest intended for posterity.

Pessoa was Kafka’s spiritual brother. As such, Pessoa decided to live a solitary life, perhaps a little grey, to give himself time and freedom to set up a huge and wonderful business. From this point of view, the character of the Lisbon poet is the ideal material for making films, where his entire absence is revealed to us thanks to his poetry.

in that Lisbon history From 1994 (work which by the way continues the quartet road movies started with state of thingsHalfway between novelist and documentary, Wim Wenders tells the story of a film director who calls his sound engineer to help him make a film in the capital of Portugal. When the sound engineer arrives in town, the director is gone, leaving only disconnected footage. In a way, the disappearing director is like Pessoa: only his photos remain to prove his existence. Determined to continue the director’s work, the sound engineer dedicates himself throughout the film to recording the sounds of the city. At the same time as the audio is being recorded, the protagonist attends Madridius’ concert and during parts of the film Pessoa’s hair can also be heard until, at one point, a man in a hat appears on the tram, with a small mustache and round glasses that is nothing but Pessoa’s ghost who wanders the city as a symbol to her.

For his part, Swiss director Alain Tanner directed the film in 1998 mass, a film based on the homonymous novel by Antonio Tabucci, one of the highest references in the works of the Portuguese poet. In a certain way, as in the case of Wenders, Tanner continues the open path in his great movie in the white city From 1983, starring Bruno Ganz, a beautiful tribute to the city of Pessoa. The film tells the story of a writer who goes on a date in Lisbon. Whoever called him is no less than the ghost of Pessoa, who asked him to meet him at noon. Convinced that ghosts only appear in the middle of the night, the protagonist dedicates himself to wandering the streets of Lisbon in search of the ghost of Pessoa, going to the cafes and the various places where the poet wandered. As he wanders, as the midnight falls, the writer meets several friends who have already long died. Halfway between the real and the fantastic, the film lies on that indefinable boundary that separates the living and the dead, achieving, like Wanderers’ film, an example of what Pier Paolo Pasolini calls the cinema of poetry.

Wenders and Tanner explore the elusive nature of identity, gloom, present, ghostly, and memory, framed in Portugal’s fascinating capital, a city that invites contemplation.

We have to wait for a miracle that someone comes up with the idea to bring a movie by Greek director Stelios Charalamopoulos called The night Fernando Pessoa and Constantino Cavaves met 2009, based on the testimony of a man who claims that such a meeting occurred in 1929.

Pessoa wrote in the first lines of his allegorical poems “Tapakoria”:

I am nothing.

I will never be anything

I can’t be anything.

Regardless of this, I carry in me all the dreams


Perhaps those dreams are what cinema can give us. ~

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