I don’t think we’ve seen a better film in the last ten years than the late Raul Ruiz’s MYSTERIES OF LISBON. Looking over the film’s liner notes, I came across this beautiful quote from Ruiz about his approach to the material:
When I read Carlos Saboga’s adaptation for the first time, which struck me as excellent, I let myself be swayed by the narration, that’s all. During the second reading, my attention focused on the sort of peace, the tranquility that enveloped the painful events suggested and illustrated by the story. It was like walking through a garden. In his novel The Cathedral, Joris-Karl Huysmans evokes an allegorical (but real) garden in which each plant, each tree, each flower represents either moral values or sins. This is how I imagined the film he wanted to make. Like Antonio de Torquemada’s The Garden of Curious Flowers, like the Garden of Eden described by Saint Brendan when he returned from the beyond, like the garden in Dante’s “Inferno” in which each flower, each plant, is a punished suicide.
Linné, the father of botany, believed that God punished each bad action with Dadaistic punishments: someone kicks a cat and then years later he sees his dear and beloved wife fall from a balcony and die under his eyes (see “The Divine Nemesis”).
While I was shooting Mysteries of Lisbon, I often thought about Linné– a garden is a battlefield. Any flower is monstrous. In slow motion, any garden is Shakespearean.