Thursday, 30 December 2010


After splitting from her patronising, abusive husband for the married American Bob, Marta slowly comes to terms with the concept of freedom. Her newly-formed illicit relationship with Bob at first appears to give her everything she needs, even an apartment which Bob pays for. In an attempt to further liberate herself, she has flings with a photographer, whom she encounters during a modelling shoot, and a drug-dealing bad boy who perhaps leads her the furthest astray. Before long, she is once again left picking up the pieces of her own life, as well as those of others.

A wistful tale of anomie in a metropolitanised Europe, Besieged is a key film of the Cinema Novo, Portugal’s own take on post-war neorealism. The film often echoes early Polanski and Cassavetes, and it’s safe to say the males in the film don’t come off particularly favourably – the title and opening credits refer to a siege of manipulative men. Consistently androgynous with her cropped hair and schoolgirl skirts, Marta is a tragic figure whose constructed happy-go-lucky image, occasionally recalling the starlets of the French New Wave, belies her status as a lost woman. Unfortunately, given how much of the film rests on her story, Marta isn’t a particularly sympathetic character, her twists and turns led more by disillusionment with her current state than a genuine desire to create a new life for herself. Simplistic sound design becomes distracting when less is heard than seen, but the film does feature some magnificent vérité photography.

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