The Chilean director Raúl Ruiz, who died earlier this year, did nothing by halves, and this epic four-hour extravaganza is the final proof.
Adapted from the 19th-century novel by Camilo Castelo Branco, it conducts a stately, often sombre dance to the music of time and memory. At its centre is the story of a nobleman, Pedro da Silva (José Afonso Pimentel), who seeks the truth of his history from a mother he barely knows and a protector priest (Adriano Luz) who hides secrets of his own.
As in Ruiz's great Proust movie Time Regained (1999) characters drop into and out of sight as coincidences and discoveries bend the narrative in unexpected directions, its artifice represented by one character's manipulation of a tiny toy theatre. Ruiz and his cinematographer Andre Szankowski bring to life the interiors of 19th-century Lisbon (and elsewhere) with a painterly bravura and a stunning use of light. It's a lovely swansong.