by Douglas Messerli
João Pedro Rodrigues (writer and director) O Ornitólogo (The Ornithologist) / 2017
Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues’ 2017 film, The Ornithologist, is ostensibly a very loose retelling of the life the Portuguese religious figure, St. Anthony of Padua. But its approach to the saint is entirely metaphorical and secular, posing its hero, Fernando (Paul Hamy) as a handsome young gay ornithologist, who has left behind his lover, Sergio, to voyage into the wilderness to check on the health of the species of black stork living in the wilds of northern Portugal.
The bird’s association with pregnancy and the delivery of babies is apt, since the journey—paralleling the Saint’s voyage from Morocco back to Portugal and his survival is Sicily—is a tale filled with new birth and discovery.
Boone, Iowa, October 10, 2017
Reprinted from World Cinema Review (October 2017)