“Belarmino interested me as a character. I thought Belarmino could be a metaphor for myself and for the state the country was in at the time. When I’m shooting, when I’m on the set, I take Belarmino’s side. I identify with him: it’s as if I were his alter ego…” (Fernando Lopes)

“Belarmino is neither documentary, nor direct cinema, nor a combination of the two. Instead, it opens new territory which foreign cinema only began to explore at a later date, when – not exclusively and not necessarily in the realm of documentary – it increasingly fused control and non-control, formal rigour and tangibility – or unpredictability – of gesture. (José Manuel Costa, Cinemateca Program Sheet, February 5th, 2020)

This is the subject matter of BELARMINO: the impassioned vision of a unique being – the wealth and ambiguity of this, in fierce opposition to every trend towards generalization, massification. These are its themes: the struggle of the isolated man, the city of Lisbon, the country of Portugal. And on the horizon of all this, a far more general question which on every new viewing increasingly seems to be the key of its lasting power: the question of fear. It’s a word that crops up repeatedly when Belarmino is talking. Even when, as at one point happens, he merely cites it to deny it. But it’s precisely this way of his of denying fear that seems to reveal the hidden core of the whole film. “Are you afraid when you step into the ring?” “Not me. I’m afraid simply as a man, afraid of looking bad.” Afraid as a man. Afraid of looking bad. Unawares, Belarmino is giving the most perfect manifestation of what, in another way, he never stops showing: that his reaction in the presence of the camera is not – and cannot be – one of utter submission (it’s the camera that makes him look good or bad, and he knows that). So he lies to the camera, at the same time as he confesses, and in his confession the lie shines through. And so the fear Belarmino feels in the presence of the camera turns out – with that element of surprise that only good films have – to be the key which throws light on everything. Fear in particular – as felt by a man, a Portuguese man – but also fear in the universal sense. Made with extremely limited resources, a film without a studio, an outsider to genre and industry, Belarmino is our film noir, our war movie, our gangster or adventure film: it speaks of solitude and fear. Its speaks of something universal, and that’s why it continues to appeal. (José Manuel Costa, Cinemateca Program Sheet, February 5th, 2020)

This DCP results from the 4K wet gate digitisation of the original 35mm camera negative, complemented by a distribution print; both film elements are conserved by Cinemateca. The sound was scanned and restored from the optical soundtrack of a print made by Cinemateca in 2014. Digital grading and image restoration were made by Cineric Portugal using a distribution print as reference.


Fernando Lopes, 74', 1964, Portugal
Written and directed by Fernando Lopes
Cinematography: Augusto Cabrita
Music: Manuel Jorge Veloso
Sound: Heliodoro Pires
Editing: Manuel Ruas
Production: António da Cunha Telles
Distribution: Doperfilme
Com/Cast: Belarmino Fragoso, Maria Amélia Fragoso, Ana Maria Saulo, Albano Martins, Tony Alonso, Bernardo Moreira, Jean-Pierre Gebler, Júlia Buisel, Maria Teresa Noronha Bastos e Baptista-Bastos (interviewer)

The portrait of a former boxer, Belarmino Fragoso, in his dérives through a Lisbon that no longer exists. Solitude, fear and defeat intersect in a film that juggles documentary, drama and interview as it moves through old cinema lobbies and night clubs. The first feature-length work by Fernando Lopes, with a moody jazz score by Manuel Jorge Veloso and radiant photography by Augusto Cabrita, this is one of the emblematic films of Portuguese Cinema Novo.