Máscaras was made the way I wanted – without artifice or aesthetic refinements to make it easier on the eye. The beauty of the people and things we see in the film is profoundly linked to where and how life unfolds in the region of Trás-os-Montes. (Until now, that is. But for how long?) My interjections during the course of the film are merely signs of meditation. No film is innocent. So it’s an ethnographic film – but more than that too. It’s open to other interpretations for those who care to look closely. It covers the entire cycle of birth, life and death, depicting the elements of each in the masked revellers and their rituals. Rituals that have come down to us over many centuries, whose meaning and representational authenticity have been diluted with time. And yet the essential elements remained in place: the figures of the masked revellers, their antics on the streets of their towns and villages, the Devil and Death, the animal sacrifice, the initiation of the young men, the supper, etc. Mysteries in which women are forbidden from participating: their only role is to wash the entrails of the sacrificed animal.
None of this happens just by chance. So I hope people don’t jump to conclusions and say Máscaras is a poetic, spontaneous film, as one critic described it. There’s more to it than that. Is it a success? That’s not for me to say.
This digital copy results from the 4K wet gate digitisation of the original 16 mm camera negative and from the final mix in magnetic tape — both conserved by Cinemateca. Digital grading and image restoration were made by Irmã Lúcia Efeitos Especiais in 2021, using a distribution print as reference. The sound was scanned and digitally restored by Cinemateca in 2021.
Fotografia/Cinematography (16mm): Acácio de Almeida, José Reynés
Sound: Philippe Costantini Montagem/Editing: Noémia Delgado
Music Adviser: Luís Madeira
Voice: Alexandre O’Neill Eletricista/Electrician: João Silva
Production: Centro Português de Cinema
The film documents the preparations for, and the actual unfolding of, the rituals held in the Trás-os-Montes region of northern Portugal in celebration of the “Winter Cycle”, a series of feasts lasting from Christmas to Ash Wednesday. The Winter Cycle is still celebrated in many regions of Europe, especially in the Alpine, Slavic and Balkanic countries, in the form of rituals performed by masked protagonists. In most cases, these masked protagonists play the part of characters taken from tradition and folklore. Many such characters – demons and ghosts – have a clear association with the dead. It’s reasonable to assume that in remote times, these characters were part of rituals held in connection with the cult of the dead. In Portugal, masked rituals can be found in the more rural and underdeveloped zones of Trás-os-Montes, where they’re held to variously mark the festivities included in the Winter Cycle – Christmas, St Stephen’s Day, the Festa dos Rapazes or “Feast of the Young Men”, New Year, Epiphany, and Ash Wednesday (in some cases Shrove Tuesday is celebrated too).