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A couple of traditional fishermen are linked by a secret vote of chastity. One day, they take in a wounded gypsy man, out of their Christian piety. As time goes by, a relationship, and love emerges between the healthy young woman and the gypsy. The reaction of the local society, and the explosion of repressed sentiments will come to a swirling vortex of violence - abduction, shootings, and forced sex.Written by
A powerful drama with intense touches of a thriller, "A Promessa" ("The Vows") is one of the most interesting Portuguese films ever made that combines a simple storytelling with a fine artistic mode. António de Macedo's film is about a couple of fisherman who rescues an injured gypsy man and the conflict that comes with this helpful act. Maria and José (played respectively by Guida Maria and João Mota) have a story of their own: in this place by the sea, filled with old traditions they made a chastity vow right after their marriage due to a certain event is best not to be revealed and they went along with it just fine. But with the sudden appearance of a group of gypsies who enter their lives bringing a group member (Sinde Filipe) who was stabbed and was really hurt, Maria begins to rethink about the vows when a certain approximation from the injured man causes that feeling of wanting a closeness and form a family since she knows her husband is strong about keeping their vows.
Another characters and situations are introduced along with this dilemma: Maria's brother, the blind Mario (J. Rodrigues de Carvalho) who takes care of their invalid father; the other two gypsies (Fernando Loureiro and Luís Barradas) who keep running schemes of selling "relics" to the town's people, which consists of mostly devoted religious people, and halfway through the movie those guys will rape and kidnap a relative of the main couple, in one of the most dramatic sequences of the film; and there's the town's priest who isn't so favorable about Maria's wishes to renounce her vows because he knows how the people will react to it.
"The Vows" discusses the power of vows and promises; the power and effect of faith; and the life's events that truly test all of those, whether to make or break. Macedo's slow pace helps to create a deep sense of curiosity towards the film which perfectly matches with the environment created (though he makes us confused in knowing about the story's settings. For a moment I thought this story was in the 19th Century then after almost an hour motor vehicles popped in and changed it all). But the place seems mystical, far from any closer period, sad, desolated but with people in complete union with each other. And the story never went into predictable ways, which made it far more interesting. Surely you can sense that things will go wrong in certain parts but not the final moments, which revolves around a desperate climax.
Except for some inconsistencies and plot holes, the film conquers from the very beginning, with a great cinematography and provided solid acting from the cast - but I didn't like how the lead gypsy kept whispering most of his lines, which made it all incomprehensible despite the good idea of selling this character as a no good individual who is a master in fooling everyone. The whole whisper thing works for such idea but it's hard to understand what's he saying at times. But the film left me intrigued and excited through it all, I couldn't keep my eyes off of it. 8/10
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