The Metamorphosis of Birds


Catarina Vasconcelos’ hybrid documentary explores family lineage in an inventive and soulful manner.

As with any form of mass media, cinema is habitually used as a bullhorn through which a filmmaker is able to bellow a statement of intent. The Metamorphosis of Birds by Catarina Vasconcelos is more interested in articulation: how, with precise fusion of sound and image, can we forge intricate, mellifluous and profound modes of expression rather than squander the medium’s boundless poetic potential?

This artisanal, lightly whimsical Portuguese debut comprises intricately designed and lit tableaux over which a narration tells of a generational family saga with much focus on estrangement and loss. It’s a film drunk on its yearning for revelation: for opening ornamental boxes; watching an ant crawl across some glistening bark; flowers blooming in time-lapse; little birds crossing over to the next life. Stark, memorable images, captured on warm 16mm film and in the square Academy ratio.

The connectivity between each miniature set piece is there for the taking, but the film’s pleasures derive from its ruminative and digressive energy.

On the evidence of this sparkling and unique film, it’s surely won’t be long before Vasconcelos will be joining the likes of Pedro Costa and Miguel Gomes at Portugal’s top table, even though this very much adopts the eccentric manner of the latter rather than the austere tone of the former.

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Published 11 Mar 2022

Catarina Vasconcelos
The Metamorphosis of Birds


A critical darling on the festival circuit, with some prizes under its belt too.


Rejects the banal and conventional in search of a new way of telling old stories.

In Retrospect.

Could’ve happily sat with this 100-minute film for at least another hour.

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