Portugal is photogenic and extremely scenic. Its climate, landscapes and attractive coasts make it a more and more desirable country for international cinematographic productions. Sceneries once captured by the lens of Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira are now a desire for many foreign directors who choose Portugal to illustrate their work.
Follow us to discover some of the most famous examples.
The most revered and visited Portuguese city in cinema is Lisbon, for it would be impossible to only pick one film that is connected to this marvelous city.
“The Russia House”, starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, is one of the films that were shot in the capital. It tells the history of a British publisher, Barley Blair, who is handed the notes of a famous soviet scientist with important military secrets. The British Secret Services tracks Blair in Lisbon and interrogates him about the manuscript, but he does not know the document. The material is intercepted by the spy services and Blair is sent out to Russia to discover the truth.
The second film that is pointed out here is based on the work of writer John Le Carré, it’s called “Night Train to Lisbon” and it is one of the films that has best represented the city in the last few years. It is a movie from 2013, starring Beatriz Batarda, Jeremy Irons and Christopher Lee, where the diversity of landscapes very well depicts the vast range of fantastic sceneries that Lisbon presents us. In this film you can see Bairro da Bica, the 25 de Abril Bridge in a kind of secondary role and even a cemetery, that of Alto de São João, in a tale in which the streets work as a labyrinthic scenario for a passionate and obsessive search.
“Os Amantes do Tejo”, in its original title, translated as “The Lovers of Lisbon”, is another unavoidable film that was filmed in Lisbon, a love letter to this city in the 50s. This French film incorporates some elements of the Lusitanian culture where iconic Amália Rodrigues makes herself noted. The fado singer is a piece of Lisbon’s cultural identity, even including a song of hers in the soundtrack that tells the history of a French taxi driver in Lisbon.
The protagonist Pierre Roubier carries the marks of his wife’s infidelity with him as he eventually ends up meeting a woman that faces issues with police. This work was censored by the famed Portuguese “lápis azul” [blue pencil, symbol of censorship of the Portuguese dictatorship], resulting in the omission of over 15% of the film’s total length.
James Bond’s 1969 film “007 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” includes several scenes filmed in Cascais. At the time, in Costa do Sol, European royalty, and cinema’s most known secret agent, found Hotel Palácio, a historic hotel in Estoril that served as a meeting point for spies during the Second World War. The film starts off with James Bond combating a villain in the wild waters of Guincho and, in other scenes, he visits Lisbon, Setúbal and Zambujal, but it is the spirit of Linha de Cascais that most suits the profile of 007.
“The Ninth Gate” is a Roman Polanski film in which Johnny Depp portrays the main character. Part of the action takes place in Sintra and only a few other places could be so well suited to tell a story so full of mysticism. The plot takes us on a journey of centenary books, esoteric tales and scary figures, seeming custom-built for the legends of the town and the mountain ridge of Sintra. In the film, we can see Praça da República from where we take a motorbike ride through Pena to the Chalet Biester. The main character elects the iconic Hotel Central to stay overnight.
This supernatural thriller, rewarded at the European Film Awards in the category of “World Cinema”, is based on the romance “The Club Dumas” by Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Depp plays Dean Corso, an ancient book collector who searches for a rare literary work. While looking for “The Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows”, Corso will take on a dangerous path leading to satanic themes, always showcasing the Sintra scenery.
4. Vila Nova de Milfontes
This is the production that brought the most high-relevance stars to Portugal. Jeremy Irons performs alongside Winona Ryder and Meryl Streep in the 1993 film “The House of the Spirits”. The adaptation of Isabel Allende’s classic is set in Chile, therefore avoiding any incorporation of Portuguese culture.
However, the stairway of the Assembleia da República [Parliament] or the Paços do Concelho [City Hall] are easy to identify during the moment in which the revolution takes place. For this film, the set of a villa was built on Monte das Três Marias in Vila Nova de Milfontes, from which only the staircase has survived. Beside the amazing landscapes of Vila Nova de Milfontes and Cabo Espichel, the movie was also filmed in Denmark.
A project that took years to be executed and during the production phase of which, problems after problems arose. “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” by Terry Gilliam, has become a nearly cursed project. The co-production between Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Portugal, came to a stalemate when the relationship between Gilliam, Leopardo Filmes and its producer Paulo Branco deteriorated. A giant legal battle has developed, centered in the fight for the legal rights of the film, which was concluded with the co-producer Ukbar Films, by Pandora Cunha Telles.
The long-play, partially filmed in Portugal, that premiered at Cannes in May 2018, saw itself “cursed” while being shot in Portugal, due to a fire that broke out during the recording causing damage to the Convento de Cristo [Convent of Christ] in Tomar, a building that has the seal of UNESCO’s World Heritage.