Palaces of Pity | Chicago Reader

Palaces of Pity

In this beautiful, vaguely sinister art film, two teenage girls compete for the affection of their regal grandmother and, after she dies, for ownership of her grand estate. Portuguese writer-directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt don't have much use for the medium shot: their movie tends to alternate between suffocating close-ups of the handsome girls and staggering long shots of them isolated against the harsh natural and architectural landscape. (In one case the two extremes are combined when a girl's profile is superimposed upon the yawning expanse of a dam.) The sense of history as a gray, oppressive force is underlined by the grandmother's dream of medieval Portugal: in one scene a knight in chain mail hangs upside down from a tree, and in another a young Arab is burned at the stake for his homosexual romance.

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