Quem és Tu? (Who are You) is a powerful and ambitious historical piece set in XVI century Portugal. Made by a leading figure in the Portuguese film industry, Joâo Botelho, the film concentrates on the suffering of Mari...展开a, a 16-year-old girl afflicted with tuberculosis. In order to alleviate her pain, she sleeps with poppies under her pillow gathered from her garden, which have a hallucinogenic effect.
In her dreams Maria envisions the horrors of the Portuguese Inquisition and the excesses and misery of the century, including the brutality waged against Portugal by the Spaniards. On the basis of the latter vision, her father burns down his house to prevent it from being occupied by Portuguese nobleman working with the Spanish controlled country. He is powerless though to continue to control the messengers of death, which the daughter sees and which continue to reek havoc on his household and loved ones.
Botelho bases the film on a novel by the 19th century Portuguese Romantic writer Almeida Garrett (1799-1854): Frei Luís de Sousa . (Brother Luis de Sousa, 1909). The filmmaker wished to make a contemporary piece of Garrett's novel, honoring the historical origins of XVI Portugal and the 'greatest myth of our century': Sebastianism, a movement that pledged allegiance to the Sebastian 'Christ'. In 1578, a young King Sebastian dragged the Portuguese nobility and soldiers into a miserable and unsuccessful crusade. In their last campaign, African Muslims surrounded 8,000 men and the king was never seen again. As the result of this battle Portugal lost its independence and colonial power throughout the world. Many in fact believed until the 19th century that Sebastian would return and restore Portugal to its former greatness.
Botelho places his faith in Garrett whose novel concerns this history, hoping to translate it the screen. As such, typical Garrettian devices focus on the tuberculosis of a young girl rather than the plague of the populace and an old squire reechoes the principles of the messianic Sebastian myth. Founder of the critical journal 'M', Botelho has previously worked with adaptations from novels, such as the 1988 feature, "Tempes dificeis/Hard Times" by Charles Dickens, used to convey the visual purity of classical silent cinema, a film financed by EURIMAGES. Botelho expressed irritation at the press conference for his film on the dominance of Hollywood financed films in Europe and is a proponent of the development of a financially secure European cinema
Botelho relies on a host of eclectic influences to translate his story: the paintings of El Greco, Caravaggio, Francis Bacon, and filmmaker Carl Dreyer's Vampyr (France/Germany 1931:The Strange Adventures of David Gray). The threads of this film weave a worthy fabric of good cinema. Botelho tackles a mythic subject with a clever use of intertextuality making the film work, not only for its historical importance but its modern day interpretation. The innocence of a young girl and her family serve as centerfold for the outrages of the time where 'the crown of glory is only given in heaven'. The misery, suffering and the shocking imagery of the dreams make it a difficult yet provocative film.