Vanda (Maria de Saisset), widowed several times over, falls in love with Ricardo, her late husband, only after his death. She heaps scorn on her current spouse (Pedro Pinheiro), until fate separates them as well… Given the chance to adapt a darkly comic play by his brilliant compatriot João César Monteiro, Oliveira decided to turn his attention away from Portugal’s rural poor and toward the country’s petty, scheming bourgeoisie. Past and the Present tracks the many twists of fate that befall Vanda and her handful of duplicitous married friends with thick, corrosive irony and wit. For the subsequent films in his Tetralogy of Frustrated Love, Oliveira would shift into a new tonal range, which makes this Buñuelian first installment all the more fascinating—a glimpse at what Oliveira needed to purge from his system.
This film has no current screenings