Linhas de Wellington (Lines of Wellington) (2012)
Director: Valeria Sarmiento.
Starring: Nuno Lopes (Sargento Francisco Xavier), Soraia Chaves (Martírio), Marisa Paredes (D. Filipa Sanches), John Malkovich (Duke of Wellington), Carloto Cotta (Tenente Pedro de Alencar), Victória Guerra (Clarissa), Marcello Urgeghe (Major Jonathan Foster), Jemima West (Maureen), Afonso Pimentel (Zé Maria), Miguel Borges (Manuel Penabranca), Mathieu Amalric (Barão Marbot), Melvil Poupaud (Marechal Massena), Filipe Vargas (Vicente de Almeida), Adriano Luz (Bordalo), João Arrais (Idiot).
mostly about the retreat back to the defense lines built by Wellington around Lisbon following the defeat of the French at Serra do Bucaco
"After the failed attempts of Junot and Soult in 1807 and 1809, Napoleon Bonaparte sent a mighty army led by Marshal Massena to invade Portugal in 1810. The French had no difficulty reaching the center of the country where the Anglo-Portuguese army, led by General Wellington, awaited them."
Lines of Wellington. French bodies are all over the battlefield. Locals come and steal the boots and other valuables off the dead.
French narrator: "On the slopes of Bucaco, despite the many natural obstacles that favored the defense of Alcoba [Spain], our valiant men of the Second Battalion battled to the summit, after one hour of extraordinary efforts. They arrived, breathless, at the ridge of the mountain, only to be met by the full force of the English artillery. Marshal Massena made a terrible mistake, sending the Second Battalion into action before the Sixth were ready to intervene."
Portuguese narrator: "Our men greeted the French with a musket volley at fifteen paces. Five hundred Jacobins stopped dead in their tracks. General Wellington advanced heavy reinforcements, forcing the French to fall back. We chased them down the slopes with our musket fire, which they could ill return, and scythed them down like ripened wheat."
A Portuguese soldier named Chico says to his friend Ze: "If I had my way, they wouldn’t even bury their whoring mothers." They go back to the English encampment.
Chico narrating: "The Jacobins lost about 5,000 men. A general and 250 officers, among the dead, wounded or captured."
Chico sees Lt. Alencar on a stretcher unconscious. The Portuguese commander sees Chico and congratulates him on wounding a French general. They then captured the general alive. A young blonde girl comes up to the commander to ask about her husband Corporal Percy. The commander asks Chico if he knows anything about Percy? Yes, he died in the fighting. So the commander tells Chico to tell Mrs. Percy that. In English Chico tells her.
Mrs. Percy starts to faint, but Chico catches her. When she recovers, she says she wants to see her husband’s body. Chico says it’s not a good idea, but she insists that she wants to see the body. So Chico will take her tomorrow. She says her name is Maureen.
Chico is sleeping when a Portuguese woman named Martirio sneaks under his blanket. Chico tells the woman to leave him be. She says that the Major sent her. After they finish, Martirio says that the Major already paid her.
The Portuguese dig a grave for Corporal Percy and bury him. Mrs. Percy sings a religious song over the body.
The English and Portuguese now retreat. Maureen retreats with them.
Wellington comments on a painter’s painting of a battle: "Too many deaths, Monsieur Leveque. Far too much meat. I did not commission a scene of slaughter."
French narrator: "Our troops reached Coimbra on October 1st." Wellington fell back to Pombal. The towns are northeast of Lisbon.
Gen. Massena decides to stay in Coimbra, northeast of Pombal. A Portuguese soldier awakens in a hospital bed. His captain, with no legs, tells him to escape from the hospital. The soldier pushes the window open and jumps onto the roof. French soldiers come into the room and one soldier tries to shoot the escapee, but misses him.
There are French soldiers all over the town and most of the residents of Coimbra have already fled south. The escapee hides in an abandoned house.
General Massena has dinner at the magnificent palace of a Swiss merchant. He does not speak at the dinner table but lets the merchant, his wife and her sister speak while he eats.
The escapee sleeps in one of the house beds. The mistress of the house approaches him with a pistol in her hand. She tells the man not to worry, for she is Portuguese. The escapee apologize to the mistress of the house. He says his name is Lt. De Alencar. She says her name is Filipa Sanches.
Alencar speaks with the older woman and tells her that he was wounded at Bucaco. He was hit in the head by two bullets.
A man has gotten separated from his wife and is asking people if they have seen her. He has a small painting of her. Her name is Maria de Jesus de Almeida and his name is Vicente de Almeida.
Refugees continue to move south. An officer named Jonathan Foster halts his soldiers on the road and has a few of them work on fixing up a wagon being driven by a young lady named Clarissa Warren and her younger brother Peter.
At night Clarissa brings a chicken dish for Foster to eat. They eat it together. She flirts with the Major. They try to have sex (brief nudity) but Foster is not up to it.
Ze crawls into Martirio’s tent. He begs her for sex but she’s tired and trying to sleep. He keeps begging and so she lets him sleep by her, saying he can do what he wants as long as he does not wake her.
Chico goes to see Mrs. Percy and gives her breakfast and a coat.
Filipa puts a clean bandage on the head of Lt. Alencar. He tells Filipa that he will be leaving this night. He wants to reach the lines of Torres, set up by Wellington for defense just north of Lisbon. It consists of dozens of fortifications, forts and redoubts. Felipa says he can barely stand, so how can he leave so soon? He wants to fight the French. Felipa gives him her pistol.
Chico narrates that the army heads south again. It was rumored that they would wait for the French around Torres Vedras, where he comes from.
A Portuguese man named Bordalo narrates that he enlisted two years ago, as soon as Junot reached Lisbon. Bonaparte was his hero. When the English routed them, the French took him along with them. He fought in Austria with Gomes Freire. Other places he fought at were Tyrol, Baumersdorf and Wagram. He even won the Legion of Honor, but at the same time he lost his illusions. They killed more poor people than noblemen. He deserted the French army.
Lt. Alencar hooks up with Bordalo after he swims across a river. With them is a group of refugee Poles who also left the French. They travel together now.
French narrator: It took three days to reach Pombal. Most of the population was gone and so was most of the food.
A group of Portuguese locals attack a small group of French soldiers. They kill them all. Meanwhile, Bordalo, Alencar and three Polish men watch the proceedings. They are spotted by two locals and brought over to the leader of the gang, a cleric. The gang and the Bordalo group, walk together with the refugees southward.
A Portuguese woman is raped first by French soldiers and then by English soldiers.
Bordalo and his group break off from the Abbot and the refugees. They go toward Lisbon.
Clarissa and Peter Warren continue moving south with the refugees. They stop and Clarissa sees a dying horse on the path. She goes back to get her pistol and shoots the animal in the head..
Alencar draws a map on the ground. The Tagus mountains ground creates a semi-circle starting from and coming back to the sea. Torres Vedras is in the southwest sector near the sea. In the northeast sector is Lisbon. At Torres Vedras is the first line of defense. There are 600 artillery pieces by the sea. And if the French are able to break through, there are still two lines before Lisbon. And the last line is around Sintra. The French could try to cross the Tagus, but that’s impossible.
Alencar is interrupted with news that the French have been spotted below them. They avoid the French. Later they come upon a refugee family that has been slaughtered. One of the Polish men wants to have sex with a dead woman. Alencar tells him to stop or he’ll shoot, but another Polish fellow starts to attack Alencar, who shoots the man dead. Another Pole bayonets Alencar, and then Bordalo uses his sword to kill the man. Then the perverted man tries to kill Bordalo, but Bodalo kills the man with his sword. Now there is only Bordalo left.
British and Portuguese troops continue to move south. They finally reach the first line of fortifications. Almeida finds his Maria, but she does not look happy about it. She tells him that she is dead to him. Maria tells him to let go of her and it’s better that he doesn’t ask why.
The man Maria is with, a soldier, comes over and pushes Almeida down on the ground. Maria tells him not to hurt the fellow. She pulls the soldier away and they leave.
Alencar once again finds himself in a hospital in Torres Vedras. The doctor removed the bullet from his head. A nurse describes the coarse man who brought Alencar in. It was Bordalo.
Clarissa Warren dressed as a nurse now comes over to see the awakened Alencar. She is very happy he is awake now.
Chico meets up with his godson and the boy’s father. He has supper with them. The father and son are also refugees.
News arrives that the French are coming closer. Less than a day’s march.
The soldier with Almeida’s wife comes to Almeida saying that he has thought about it, and he has no right to be with a married woman. He says he will sell her for 20 cruzados, because he had to spend some money on her. With his foot, Almeida pushes the soldier down on the ground. Now Maria comes up and tells her husband not to hurt her soldier. She calls Almeida a coward and helps the soldier up and goes away with him.
Chico comes to see Mrs. Percy. He brings her a chicken. He asks Maureen to marry him. They embrace. She tells him later that she simply cannot marry him. She is having Percy’s child and she wants the child to be born in Ireland. Chico tells Maureen that the French will be here tomorrow. If she wants to leave, she better leave now.
Filipa has now been brought to the local hospital. She was raped by French troops and now has gone mad. The sister takes Filipa into the hospital.
Lt. Alencar leaves the hospital. Now he is back in uniform and he goes to see Chico and the troops.
Wellington comes onto the parapets and looks with a telescope for the French troops.
Wellington’s fortifications come as a surprise to Marshal Massena. He sees Wellington on top of the parapet.
Clarissa Warren is set to leave for England. She says goodbye to Major Foster.
Martirio marries Ze with Chico as the best man. The ceremony’s cut short because of an accidental explosion of one of the cannon. In the explosion, Chico’s godson is killed.
Chico and Alencar catch a French sentry which turns out to be the nurse Eusebio. He carried Alencar off the battlefield at Bucaco. The man in reality is a French spy and not in uniform. Usually the sentence is death, and the man is shot.
Chico and Alancar go back to the French camp, but this time they only find dummies wearing French uniforms. They signal the English that the French have left. Everybody starts whooping it up.
Chico’s godson will be buried inside the fortification walls.
The French army crossed the border in April 1811, abandoning Portuguese territory for good. They left behind a devastated, exhausted and radically transformed country.
Good to have a Portuguese film about the time of Napoleon. The English with the help of the Portuguese are able to push the French out of Portugal. The allies have to fall back to their defensive fortifications to the north of Lisbon. The film follows the stories of several people involved in the fighting and several refugees also forced to flee toward Lisbon. The human interest stories are not that great, but they are not bad either. The Wellington character was more of a peripheral character than a main character. We don't learn much about the man. The film is mostly about the Portuguese characters, which is okay with me.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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