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Mysteries of Lisbon (2011)



Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 23
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 2

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 1,296

My Rating

Movie Info

Raul Ruiz's masterful adaptation of the eponymous nineteenth-century Portuguese novel (by Camilo Castelo Branco) evokes the complex intertwined narratives of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens. The core story centers on Joao, the bastard child of an ill-fated romance between two members of the aristocracy who are forbidden to marry, and his quest to discover the truth of his parentage. But this is just the start of an engrossing tale that follows a multitude of characters whose fates conjoin,

Jan 17, 2012


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All Critics (51) | Top Critics (23) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (8) | DVD (3)

The production design and costumes are immaculate, while Ruiz's camera glides around soirées, ducks under tables and peers from behind curtains.

December 6, 2011 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A sumptuous unravelling of secrets wrapped in tantalizing stories that gradually interconnect the lives of an ensemble of characters who seduce, betray and defend each other in the years surrounding the Peninsular War.

November 11, 2011 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Based on the sprawling 19th-century novel by Camilo Castelo Branco, Chilean director Raul Ruiz renders an equally sprawling tale filled with love and war, violence and vengeance and the search for identity.

November 10, 2011 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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This isn't one of those epics that uses length as a bludgeon. Rather than sweep, the movie spirals, twisting its viewpoint to reveal tales within tales.

September 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A sprawling 19th century novel filtered through the mind of a trickster filmmaker, the late Raúl Ruiz, who both delights in and subverts his wildly complex and melodramatic source material.

September 29, 2011 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a lot. But if you're at all inclined, it's just right.

September 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is a film of labyrinthine storytelling and cinematic weaves of character and narrative that stretch across countries and time itself...

February 19, 2012 Full Review Source: Parallax View
Parallax View

It is four and a half hours long, but it's got enough plot for at least 30 movies.

January 4, 2012 Full Review Source: Ebert Presents At The Movies

The duration is intimidating, but the time flies by in an engrossing movie that covers three generations over the late 18th and early 19th centuries and deals with themes - chance, identity, manipulation, multiple personality - that recur in Ruiz's oeuvre.

December 10, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

If you have time, dip in.

December 9, 2011 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

[It reminds] us of Ruiz's gifts with light and colour, his ambitions with narrative, his sometimes interesting, sometimes frustrating remoteness, and his preoccupations with myth, the avant-garde and 19th-century classicism, all at once.

December 8, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Offers a Dickensian level of storytelling richness while unfurling the tangled personal history of a teenage boy seeking the truth about his parentage.

December 8, 2011 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

This über-snooze of a costume epic, based on a Portuguese novel, has flickers of surreal invention like valedictory memory spasms.

December 8, 2011 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

For those with open minds, the cinema of Ruiz offers enormous and unique pleasure.

December 8, 2011 Full Review Source: Guardian

Storytelling of breathtaking scale and grandeur, even if the complex plotting may twist your synapses along the way.

December 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

It's all played out beautifully and captured by Ruiz with his characteristically detailed cinematography.

November 11, 2011 Full Review Source: NOW Toronto
NOW Toronto

The first thing you need to know about a four-hour-plus movie is that you'll probably wish it were longer.

November 4, 2011 Full Review Source: Jam! Movies
Jam! Movies

It was easy to lose focus and turn off such a sprawling discursive work.

October 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

I think I love best that Ruiz found a way to adapt this frothy tale to an equally frothy style of filmmaking. It's alive in the most passionate way.

October 7, 2011 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Let's just say that when one character says, "I have a long story to tell you," he ain't a-kidding.

September 29, 2011 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Audience Reviews for Mysteries of Lisbon

"Mysteries of Lisbon" is the slowest, most sleep-inducing film I've ever seen. It was painful at times to try to stay awake through its interminable four hours.

It's not even that interesting. If it had been better directed and edited, I think I still would have been disappointed by it. It astonishes me that this bourgeois soap opera is being raved about by some top-notch critics.

It is beautiful to look at; that's for sure. But films have to be way more than visually beautiful. They must have something to say. This film has little to say. It is soap opera given a high bourgeois treatment by a director (Chilean director Raul Ruiz) who loves mainstream 19th-century fiction.

If Mr. Ruiz had any interest in the 21st century, he might be an interesting artist for us today. But he doesn't. He wants to go back in time to 1820, and he should. Even if he had anything fresh and interesting to say about the 19th century, that would be something. But he doesn't even have that. As an artist, he's embalmed.
August 12, 2011
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

In "Mysteries of Lisbon," Joao(Joao Luis Arrias) is already suffering through school enough without the local bullies picking up on his being an orphan. After falling suddenly ill, he sees an unfamiliar figure through the feverish haze. When he recovers, Father Dinis(Adriano Luz) tells him that it was Angela(Maria Joao Bastos), a countess, who is also Joao's mother. However, all is not happiness for all concerned as she is kept prisoner by her husband who has switched her role with the maid. Still, business and wars call him away for business often which gives them time to get to know each other. But one time they miscalculate, forcing her to flee and Father Dinis also to give her sanctuary, along with a trusted servant.

"Mysteries of Lisbon" is a handsomely produced film(reportedly culled from an even longer miniseries) that moves along at its own languid pace, helping to recreate a past world of much tighter social norms that are violated at one's own risk. Apparently, the Catholic Church was the witness protection program of that time period with many of the characters having a complicated back story and more than one name which can be challenging to keep track of for casual viewers.(In any case, I'm glad I did not try to see this in a theatre.) So subtle is the storytelling that I did not realize this movie took place in the 1840's until it got around to bringing up the French Revolution, as I know so very little about Portugese history.
June 24, 2013
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Its an impressive film, it sustains itself thematically and holds your interest for its 4 1/2 hour run time while really playing around with the audience's perception of whats real or imagined. It weaves in and out of stories and stories within those stories so seamlessly and it covers just about every standard theme imaginable. 'Mysteries of Lisbon' is the very definition of the word whimsical. ' Like 'Barry Lyndon' or 'Fanny and Alexander' its bound to become a standard for considerably lengthy costume dramas
March 4, 2012
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

    1. Pedro da Silva - Adult: One soon discovers that it's not difficult to disappear from the eyes of others but that our own eyes follow us wherever we go.
    – Submitted by Mike M (2 years ago)
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