Stranded along a sublime river fjord in northern Portugal, a hunky ornithologist is subjected to a series of brutal and erotic Stations-of-the-Cross-style tests, in the daring new film from provocative Portuguese auteur João Pedro Rodrigues.
João Pedro Rodrigues
After his concentrated bird surveying causes his boat to capsize, the unconscious Fernando is washed ashore and rescued by two young, seemingly innocent female Chinese pilgrims, who are lost on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Thereafter, the film bends genres and busts taboos as Fernando is forced into extreme action in order to survive a series of brutal, Stations-of-the-Cross-style tests, his metamorphosis observed all the while by the eerily placid gaze of the birds above.
Evoking the art-historical iconography of Saint Sebastian (courtesy Fra Angelico, Bellini, Mantegna et al.), Rodrigues also adopts (and radically transforms) tropes and patterns from the western to create his mythic land of fantasy.
A film in which several pilgrimages — religious, cinematic, and erotic — intersect and overlap, The Ornithologist boldly continues the uncompromising path of a filmmaker who consistently pushes the boundaries of the socially acceptable in his quest for artistic freedom.