The Divine Comedy

A mental asylum proves the fitting setting for Oliveira's take on the whole of Western civilization. Here Raskolnikov, Jesus Christ, Nietzsche, and Adam and Eve (or at least the madmen who believe themselves such characters) wander the idyllic grounds, debating amongst themselves and to the camera the frameworks of culture, art, philosophy, and most of all, sin. “Adam and Eve” run about nude in the garden, until “Eve” decides she'd rather be St. Theresa; meanwhile, a devout “prophet” holds a book he claims is the Fifth Gospel, even though its pages are completely blank. Leave it to Oliveira to create a world where figures from the Bible and Dostoevsky are finally allowed to square off, viewpoint-to-viewpoint; there's no dramatic plot per se, only the eternal conflict of ideas. The actors (including Maria de Medeiros of Pulp Fiction) are not characters, but philosophical concepts, their dialogues and Oliveira's skillful direction turning The Divine Comedy into an experience of cinema-and philosophy-unlike any other.

This page may by only partially complete. For additional information about this film, view the original entry on our archived site.