Mudar de Vida (Change of Life)

Paulo Rocha

The second and arguably most important film by Paulo Rocha, one of the central figures of the Novo Cinema, Mudar de Vida is a direct response to Oliveira’s Rite of Spring and an important precursor to the radical documentary shaped fiction of António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro. Captivated by the remote Portuguese fishing village of Furadouro, Rocha chose not to make a traditional documentary but rather to engage the specificities of the people and place through fiction, crafting a melancholy story about a soldier’s return to a changing world. Inspired by his experience working with Oliveira on Rite of Spring, Rocha “cast” the local villagers as themselves, interspersed with experienced actors led by the great Isabel Ruth, who would go on to become an Oliveira regular. The poetry of the local vernacular is captured in the textured dialogue written by António Reis, who met Rocha through Oliveira. Despite the steadily building critical acclaim that followed the release of Mudar de Vida — and despite its controversial depiction of a disillusioned Angola War veteran — Rocha effectively ceased filmmaking until the 1980s. (Harvard Film Archive)

António gave me a great lesson. He worked on the dialogues for six months, scratching and throwing them away. Every day thinner, always in a cold sweat, searching for the comma, the pause, the secret and expressive assonance. The dialogues, dragged out in irons, arrived at the filming at the last minute, and there was no time to reflect on them. It was only years later, when Mudar de Vida had its premiere in Tokyo, that I had the opportunity to study them. The work of translating them into Japanese was very slow, and only then could I discover the musical concision, the secret wealth of those phrases written with an infallible ear. How many dialogues in our language can compare to that?” (Paulo Rocha)


Portuguese spoken, English subtitles
Restored version courtesy of Cinemateca Portuguesa