To offer a reductive description of Pedro Costa’s Horse Money for those unfamiliar with it or him as a filmmaker, imagine the following: Labyrinth, except Jennifer Connelly is now an elderly Cape Verde immigrant named Ventura, the labyrinthine dream world is a succession of purgatorial hospital hallways and broken streets, the Jim Henson puppets are replaced by the sorrowful ghosts of lost Portuguese souls, and the looming presence of David Bowie is instead the spectre of Portugal’s socio-political climate. That old, familiar tale.
Shot in the square Academy-ratio, Costa offers some oft-stunning compositions for his digitally shot, non-linear, draining foray into a world of shadows, dementia and delirium. (In fairness, it’s only a little less draining and lacking in cohesion than Labyrinth.) A spiritual sequel of sorts to Costa’s 2006 film Colossal Youth, which also starred Ventura, Horse Money is probably not an ideal introduction to this very singular artist, but those hypnotised by confounding puzzle-box features and not so concerned with narrative catharsis may find resonance in the madness. Most others may at least find some isolated visual and aural pleasures in the phantasmagorical trip.