Lisbon in Movies

Cinema is known for creating icons. From its early “star system” days to the contemporary marks of the pop culture milieu, cinema has definitely succeeded and has ingrained words and images in our collective memories.

The immortalizing powers of the so called “movie magic” extend themselves to sights and locations as well. The city of Casablanca will forever be associated to its homonymous movie, the Swedish meadows to Ingmar Bergman and for many Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral is best knowed as “Hogwarts”.

With that in mind we’ve selected four movies starring Lisbon that will peak the curiosity of those uninitiated to the city and provide a brand new look upon it for those who know it well.

Recordações da Casa Amarela – 1989 –by João César Monteiro
(Recollections of the Yellow House)

Known for his somewhat cynical look of the Portuguese society, João César Monteiro is still one of the most celebrated Portuguese movie makers. No matter how estranged he might have felt from its people, Monteiro has a clear love for the city of Lisbon and it shows in this movie. From the narrow streets and small cafes to the old houses with high ceilings this movie will show the good and the ugly of the Portuguese capital and its people.

Отецисын – 2003 – Directed by Aleksandr Sokurov
(Father and Son)

Mostly known by his one-plan masterpiece The Russian Ark, Aleksandr Sokurov choose Lisbon to film the second chapter of his parenting movie essays (Mother and Son was the first one). The old historic neighbourhoods of Mouraria and Alfama are charmingly depicted in this movie where the main characters live in an attic on one of the many small buildings you can see when strolling around the city centre. Even though you follow the story of two Russian expats, the Lisbon you see in Father and Son is the Lisbon of locals, depicted by a foreigner who felt in love with the city.

Alice – 2005 – by Marco Martins

Marco Martins is one of the emergent names in Portuguese contemporary cinema. His first feature film, Alice, tells us the story of a distraught father looking for his missing daughter in the metropolitan area of Lisbon. This sombre look on Lisbon gives us a rare perspective on the city, showing us how vast and chaotic it can be when you’re desperately looking for something (or someone) you cannot find. Apart from the long plans from the city, this movie is also a great showcase of contemporary Portuguese talent, with Nuno Lopes (winner of the 2016 best actor award in the Venice film Festival for his role in São Jorge, also by Marco Martins)in the starring role, and music by Bernardo Sassetti, whose tragic death left a very hard to fill gap in current Portuguese music.

IjungGancheob – 2003 – by Hyeon-jeong Kim
(Double Agent)

Ijung Gancheob is a South Korean espionage thriller filmed in three different countries, South Korea, Czech Republic and Portugal. Even though the city of Lisbon only appears in the final third of the movie, the reason why is quite interesting, especially for those who have been in the Portuguese capital before. In Double Agent, Lisbon is also an actress, and it’s playing the role of Rio de Janeiro. With some strategically placed palm trees and Brazilian cars, Hyeon-jeong Kim dresses Lisbon in a tropical costume in order to get that “South American feel”. We cannot judge how successful he was in his efforts, it’s still Lisbon to us.