A mesmerising performance from young actor Joao Nunes Monteiro carries anti-war film “Mosquito”
An hallucinatory trip through WWI Mozambique is the pick of the day at the Luxembourg City Film Festival on Thursday.
João Nuno Pinto’s “Mosquito” brings to mind Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” as it takes its audience on a journey through the entrails of colonialism at its most brutal and dispassionate. Except the colonialists in this case are Portuguese. And the protagonist is not Conrad’s cynical river boat captain Charles Marlow, but a wide-eyed teenage soldier who is willing to do everything to serve his country and survive the apparently hostile terrain in which he finds himself stranded.
The film could not be more emphatic in its criticism of colonialism than the opening scene in which the Portuguese soldiers landing in Mozambique are carried ashore from their boat on the shoulders of locals. When our hero, Zacarias (Joao Nunes Monteiro), contracts malaria shortly afterwards, he is left behind by his company. So he decides to set off on foot through terrain he has never before seen, to try to rejoin them.
Watch the trailer to “Mosquito”
It is a journey that takes in abandonment by his guides, a sojourn with a madly eccentric colonialist, being held hostage in a village dominated by women, falling sick to fever, fraternising with the enemy, and a denouement that is violent and surprising and not too dissimilar to “Apocalypse Now”, which was of course based on “Heart of Darkness”.
Using a hand-held camera and out of focus shots to emphasise the disorientation of Zacarias, Pinto does not make his film particularly easy to watch. But with a mesmerising performance from Nunes Monteiro, “Mosquito” is always engaging. As an anti-war film in which the war--the Portuguese were fighting what Zacarias’s immediate superior refers to as the inhuman Bosc--—hardly figures, “Mosquito” is a cleverly crafted and rather raw statement.
Delano is picking a film of the day from the programme every day throughout the Lux Film Fest. Duncan Roberts is a member of the festival’s selection committee.