Foregrounding a lonesome birdwatcher, The Ornithologist is a mystical journey blending religious rapture and blasphemous naturalism, offering a personal take on the myth of Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of Lisbon.
Fernando decides to go down a river in a kayak, hoping to find extremely rare black storks. Soon thrown overboard by the current, Fernando is discovered some way off by two Chinese pilgrims. This encounter marks the start of a mythical journey, an existentialist’s quest replete with symbols and Biblical figures, from the forbidden apple, the first martyr Sebastian to God’s Son Jesus, provocatively infused with sensuality, demonic visions and eulogies to unspoilt nature of north-east Portugal.
“All of my films border on fantasy, like the miracles, which are, after all, supernatural events. In religion itself, sacred paintings are an attempt to give faces and bodies to the saints; beings who are both transcendental and physically powerful. I find this contradiction in religion itself fascinating. I built the story on a meticulous base: the biblical myths, pagans and figure of Saint Anthony. The Ornithologist could be compared to a more internal than physical path of knowledge and transformation. I’m interested in the characters, which evolve and change, a bit like people do in real life.” (João Pedro Rodrigues)
João Pedro Rodrigues
Born in 1966 in Portugal. Studied biology at Lisbon University, after which he attended the Lisbon Film School. His film debut, Happy Birthday!, premiered at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Special Jury Prize. The Ornithologist is his fifth feature film.