Planet Earth meets Pier Paolo Pasolini in João Pedro Rodrigues’ erotic exploration of man and nature
Don’t be fooled by the elevator pitch: this story of a birdwatcher on a slow odyssey through Portugal’s Douro Valley whose journey begins to mimic the life of Saint Anthony of Padua is a million miles from sombre hagiography. Kinky, funny and frequently ridiculous, The Ornithologist is an irreverent queering of all that is rotten in the good book and its apocrypha.
Fernando is the titular twitcher, kayaking along in search of black stork when he’s overcome by rapids and his trip takes a turn for the weird. Played by a deadpan Paul Hamy, Fernando skulks around the stunning landscape half-naked and with the mannered brutishness of a domesticated animal adjusting to the wild. His off-piste adventures introduce him to a litany of oddballs, including two pilgrims who have strayed from the Camino de Santiago – good Christian girls with an appetite for BDSM – a nubile goatherd named Jesus and a group of topless amazons.
What all of The Ornithologist’s narrative episodes really mean is not always clear, but it’s OK to be bewildered – Anthony is, after all, the patron saint of the lost. This is a film looking to provoke, titillate and pervert, not to explain.
The Ornithologist screened at Glasgow Film Festival