'Non', ou A V Glria de Mandar (No, or the Vain Glory of Command) (1990)





Director:     Manoel de Oliveira.

Starring:     Lus Miguel Cintra (Ens. Cabrita, Viriato, Don Joo de Portugal),  Diogo Dria (Soldier Manuel, Lusitanian warriror, Don Joo's cousin),  Miguel Guilherme (Soldier Salvador, Lusitanian warrior, Alccer warrior),  Lus Lucas (Cpl. Brito, Lusitanian warrior, Alccer nobleman),  Carlos Gomes (Soldier Pedro, Alccer warrior),  Antnio S. Lopes (Soldier, Lusitanian warrior, Alccer warrior),  Mateus Lorena (Don Sebastio),  Lola Forner (Princess Doa Isabel),  Ral Fraire (Don Afonso).

1963 to 1975, Portugal fights to maintain its colonies (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau)



Spoiler Warning:

Portuguese soldiers are being transported in an open truck.  One of the soldiers, a Sergeant Manuel, says:  "The worst is this dragging boredom.  I wonder what we're doing here?"  The fellow next to him, Salvador explains:  "We're defending our colonies.   I mean, our overseas provinces."  The sergeant replies:  "Pity on us!  And pity on the blacks!"  He adds that this has been going on for 14 years now.  Sgt. Brito is a bit offended by this talk and says:  "To defend the peoples' rights."  The other sergeant says they will never get out of this mess.  Sgt. Manuel asks Corporal Pedro to say something.  So Pedro says that a lot of Portuguese have gone abroad rather than serve in the army.  One fellow says it's because of ideological politics, while Salvador says it's just sheer cowardice.  Sgt. Manuel says most of the army evaders did it out of political conviction against Prime Minister Salazar and against the Portuguese Colonial War. 

Sgt. Manuel says that Viriato, before Portugal was even a country, defended his village and fought against the Romans.  Pedro asks who is this Viriato fellow?  He was the leader of their ancestors, known as the Portuguese or the Lusitanians. He says back then the Lusitanians only had to fight off the Romans, but today Portugal is fighting virtually the whole world because the world supports the guerrillas.  Sgt. Brito tells Sgt. Manuel that it seems like he is condoning the rebellions of the colonies against Portugal. Manuel says that the scenario is like that what happened in Brazil when they got their independence from Portugal.  Salvador gets irritated and says:  "Independent!  Colonies that have been ours for over five centuries!?  This is no Vietnam!  To hell with your worthless talk."

Salador says they better change the subject.. How about that Viriato?  The Lusitanians lost to the Romans, but that was only after the loss of their never defeated, never humbled leader Viriato.  They also lost because of some treason.  The traitors were Audace, Dictalion and Minurus.  They were bought by the Romans.  The three traitors were friends of Viriato and that's why it was so easy for them to get at Viriato.  After the hero fell asleep the traitors went into his tent and killed him. 

One day the Romans were on a search for the Lusitanians.  The Lusitanians under the leadership of Viriato ambushed them from behind a ridge.  First they threw rocks at them and then they threw their spears.  Many of the Romans were saved by their shields.  Viriato didn't know it, but he was forming a kingdom out of the unification of the various tribes, but the unity only applied to the fighting of the Romans.  Viriato led the Lusitanians to several victories over the Romans between 147 BC and 139 BC.

A huge funeral is held for Viriato.  His body lay on top of a huge, multi-layered stack of wood.  The fires are lighted and the mourners stay until only the ashes of the fire are left.

The Lieutenant says that Portugal was established during the crusades.   The moors invaded the peninsula in 711 A.D.  They destroyed the old Visigothic Kingdom. 

In 868, Count Vmara Peres re-conquered and governed the region between the rivers Minho and Douro.

Portugal started out as a dependency of the Kingdom of Len.   Under the rule of King Garcia II, Portugal became independent in 1065. The nobles revolted and in 1072 Portugal came back under the control of Len under King Alfonso VI (the brother of Garcia II).

In the 12th century the Portuguese and the Spanish drove the Moors back to Africa.  The lieutenant says that Portugal was Europe's first nation even it it was limited in its growth by the sea, the mountains and Spain. 

In the 15th century King Afonso V tried to turn the Iberian Peninsula into country at the Battle of Toro.  His son Prince John had to come to his father's aid.  Prince John won his part of the battle, but his father lost.   King Afonso's troops were pushed into the Douro River.  Afonso's attempt to unite the Iberian Peninsula failed, but Prince John (the future King John II who reigned 1481-1495) married infanta Isabel, daughter of the Spanish king, in 1473.   In 1479 a peace treaty was signed.

 In 1491, King John II's only legitimate son Afonso died in mysterious circumstances.  The son was married to Isabella of Aragon and was set to inherit both Portugal and Aragon.  One version of the story of the death of Afonso is that the Prince asked his friend to race with him on horseback along a lake shore.  In the race Afonso's horse lost its footing and Afonso was thrown to the ground.   The friend then suddenly ran off on horseback.  It took awhile for Afonso to die, but die he did.  A funeral is held for Afonso.  The dream of a unified Iberian Peninsula died with the death of Afonso.

In 1495 King John II died and was replaced by his first Cousin Manuel I (reigned 1495-1521). 

The soldiers reach their destination and climb out of their trucks.  They sit down to eat their lunch.  The lieutenant continues with the story of Portugal.  He says that the real legacy of Portugal was all the discoveries of new land they made, like Vasco da Gama in India, Christopher Columbus and Alvarez Cabral in America and Magellan's circumnavigation of the world.  And Gago Coutinho, aviation pioneer, who with Sacadura Cabra, was the first to cross the South Atlantic Ocean by air in the 20th century. 

There is a long, fanciful scene of Portuguese soldiers landing in the New World for the first time.  (Brief nudity.)

After lunch the men get back in the trucks.  They arrive at a military base.  They are happily greeted by the men at the base.  The men settle into a tent and have some drinks and talk about faithful and unfaithful wives and girlfriends. Then they go back to history with talk of the Fifth Empire that was supposed to rule the whole world with only one king and one pope. It was partly the dream of Father Vieira.  According to his dream all heretics (Moslems, pagans and Jews) would be converted. 

And then there was Sebastianism that began after the death of King Sebastian.  The King became Portugal's most important myth/legend.  He was known as the Hidden One because he disappeared in 1578 at the Battle of Alcazar-Quibir (aka the War of the Three Kings because three kings died in the battle:  the Kings of Portugal and Morocco and the Arab Muley Mohammed, who was allied to the Portuguese).  The people refused to believe he was dead and that he would come back to save Portugal.  Sebastian was born on the day of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian.  

The Battle of the Three Kings was the greatest disaster in the history of Portugal. It was fought in northern Morocco between Tangier and Fez.  The defeat of Portugal spelled the end of the Aviz Dynasty (1385-1580).  It also meant the integration of Portugal into the Iberian Union for 60 years under the Philippine Dynasty (1580-1649) in a dynastic union with Spain.

A soldier under the king of Portugal comments that the man is totally insane.  Muley Meleck, the sultan of Morocco, wrote Sebastian a letter in which he promised an expansion of the Portuguese Empire into Africa.  But Sebastian just wanted to capture Morocco all on his own.  He was on a crusade because from Morocco he wanted to go on and defeat the Turks and conquer Jerusalem.  Then he would also become the Pope and thereby be able to totally implement the Fifth Empire.  Sebastian was stubborn and fool-hardy.  He also suffered from a venereal disease known as gonorrhea.    He went into battle in 1578. 

The two forces face each other in their battle lines.  While the Spanish pray, the Moroccans start firing their cannon at the troops.  The Spanish also have their allies, such as the Italians and Germans, as well as Muley Mohammed and his men. 

When the Spanish canon are fired the cannon fall off their carriages and onto the ground. The enemy sends smalls bands of men back and forth to take rifles shots at the Portuguese and heir allies.  Sebastian informs everyone that they are not to move until he gives the order to attack.  An officer rides up to Sebastian to urge him to either fall back or attack because they are starting to take heavy losses.

Captain Alexandre Morelra, heading the adventurers' regiment, decides to take the initiative himself.  Only part of his group followed him toward the Muslims.  Morelra pushes part of the front line backwards.  "The King saw nothing.  He dreamt on."  Then suddenly it is as if the King just suddenly awakened.  He orders his troops to charge. 

The Arab cavalry now completely surrounds the Portuguese soldiers.  The battle was lost at that point.  The Lieutenant says:  "Oh, the glory of leading!  Oh, vain envy!" 

in Africa the Lieutenant gets an order.  They are going on patrol starting tomorrow.  The soldiers sing a song together. 

The next day the men are out on patrol.  All of a sudden an explosion takes place.  The enemy opens up on them.  The men dive to the ground and start returning fire.  Quite a few of the Portuguese patrol are killed or wounded.  The firing stops and the Portuguese move forward.  One fellow finds an abandoned AK-47 and picks it up.  It seems that when the enemy retreated, they took their dead and wounded out with them.  A helicopter takes the badly wounded back to the military base first. 

The badly wounded have suffered the loss of limbs and disfigured faces.  They are now in the hospital ward.  A Portuguese knight gets up off the ground and shouts:  "A terrible word is the Non!'  He takes his own life by the use of his sword. 

The Lieutenant in his hospital bed asks for some morphine.  He gets a shot of it and goes to sleep.  He dreams of a Portuguese knight grabbing his sword so hard that blood starts dripping down the sword.  The Lieutenant suddenly starts coughing and spits up blood.  He goes into cardiac arrest.  He receives an injection of adrenalin directly into his heart.  The doctor keeps rhythmically pushing down on his chest. 

The doctor fills out his forms.  Lt. Cabrita died on the day of the revolution of April 25, 1974. 


This is quite a history lesson.  Of course, I enjoyed it.  It gave me a chance to review the history of Portugal up until the end of the 16th century.  It was interesting.  I imagine a lot of people would say that the movie was too wordy, too talky.  Modern day soldiers talk to each other about the history of Portugal.  But the talk is broken up with scenes dealing with the various historical episodes.  There's no true hero in the film  -- ensemble cast. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:


1932-1968 term of service of Prime Minister of Portugal Antnio de Oliveira Salazar, who founded and led the Estado Novo (New State), an authoritarian, right-wing government that controlled Portugal from 1932 to 1974.  Under this reactionary government, Portugal was said to be a pluricontinental empire under the doctrine of lusotropicalism, with Angola and Mozambique as main colonies.

1939-1945  --  WWII. 

1945 Portugal had an extensive colonial Empire:

                In Africa:

                Cape Verde Islands,

                So Tom e Principe,

                Angola (including Cabinda),

                Portuguese Guinea, and


                In India:


                Damo (including Dadra and Nagar Haveli) and

                Diu (the Portuguese India).

                In China:


                In Southeast Asia:

                Portuguese Timor.


1961-1974 the duration of the Portuguese Colonial War fought between Portugal's military and the emerging nationalist movements in Portugal's African colonies. In 1974 the war ended because the Portuguese authoritarian regime was overthrown by a military coup.

1961 Portugal loses possession of Goa, Daman and Diu following Operation Vijay.

1974 the Carnation Revolution restores democracy in Portugal.

1975  -- end of the colonial wars in Africa. 





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