20.13: Purgatory (2006)








Director:     .


Starring:     Marco D'Almeida (Alferes Gaio), Adriano Carvalho (Capitão), Carla Chambel (Esperança), Maya Booth (Leonor), Ivo Canelas (Médico), Nuno Nunes (Capelão), Pedro Varela (Viegas), Quimbé (Cabo VCC), Lourenço Henriques (Montemor-o-Velho), Marco Paiva (Montemor-o-Novo), Manuel Melo (Maciel), Nuno Gil (Alferes Pizarro), Cândido Ferreira (Sargento Ferreirinha), Júlio César (Tenente-Coronel), Angélico Vieira (Vicente).


Mozambique, 24th of December 1969: who and why does someone kill a prisoner brought into headquarters by a Portuguese army patrol?






Spoiler Warning: 


Mozambique, 1969.  Portuguese soldiers are crossing a river.  They have a wounded man. An officer bends down to the wounded man and says that he will feel much better in no time.  Another soldier comes over to the office saying they are still unable to get a radio connection. 


They also have  a prisoner and the soldier guarding him is being very abusive.  The officer scolds the soldier saying that he wants that man alive and able to walk on his own accord. 


The doctor's wife. Esperanza, asks the Captain if Lt. Gaio's patrol will arrive before nightfall?  The officer says it will. 


Two helicopters land and a bunch of people get out of the copters.  Leonor, the wife of the Captain, gets out.  She goes over to her husband and gives him a kiss, but he doesn't react.  A little later she comes over to him and tells him that he still hasn't told her if he's happy to see her. 


The commander gives a little speed to the assembled soldiers.  He tells them that victory is close at hand. 


The radio people still can't get any contact with Lt. Gaio's patrol. 


The commander now leaves in the helicopter.


Now they get in contact with Lt. Gaio.  The patrol is 2 km from base. 


The patrol comes in.  The Captain is not happy with Lt. Gaio.   He reminds the man that he's an officer in the Portuguese military, not a Boy Scout leader.  "You shouldn't be satisfied with moral victories."  The Captain believes that Lt. Gaio does not believe in this war.  Gaio responds:  "Excuse me, but that's none of anyone's business."  The Captain says it does matter.  Perhaps that's why Gaio is not pushing hard enough to get at the enemy.  Gaio replies that his ideas didn't effect his recent mission.  It was a matter of priorities, and his priority was to bring back Lito.  The Captain doesn't find that answer satisfactory.  Sometimes the mission is more important than saving one man 's life. 


The Captain's wife snoops around the apartment to find out more about what her husband has been up to in her absence.  She manages to break a vase in her search. 


The priest reads a letter for a man who is illiterate.  The letter contains bad news.  The priest tells Larga-Larga that the child the woman is having is not his child.  The months just don't don't add up right.  And the little that Larga Larga did wasn't enough to get the girl pregnant.


The Captain and Leonor have a fight.  She feels that he does not pay enough attention to her and that she doesn't even know her husband.  She says she wants to know everything about him.  The husband offers nothing to try to please his wife, so she says their arguments will end in a different outcome this time.


It's Christmas Eve.  A magic show is being presented for the soldiers and wives.  Esperanza goes outside.  She says to the Captain that she will see him later.  A little later a soldier goes outside.  Then Lt. Gaio goes outside.  The husband of Esperanza, the doctor, now comes outside and grabs Gaio hard by the arm and asks him where's he going?   Gaio tells the man to not be a fool.  Yes, he's going on his rounds. 


The soldier who left the performance after the officer's wife is stealing items from his fellow soldiers out of the barracks.  He steals a cigarette lighter and then some nude pictures of women.  A sergeant on watch hears some noise coming from the barracks and he goes inside the barracks to check.  He pulls his pistol out and asks who's there?  Lucky for the thief, Larga-Larga speaks up saying for the watch man to go ahead and shoot him.  He would be doing Larga-Larga a favor, he says, because the woman he loves was untrue to him.  The thief escapes from the barracks and returns to the performance. 


The missing wife now returns to the performance and this time she is singing along to the strumming of the guitarists on stage.  Then a soldier joins in on the singing with the woman.  The Captain doesn't like this for some reason, and walks out of the performance.  Leonor goes after her husband. 


The priest now talks to the men at the performance.  His talk is interrupted by a loud explosion and the sounds of machine gun fire.  The men rush out of the mess hall and get into their battle positions.  Meanwhile, Esperanza's husband looks for his wife.  Esperanza is in her apartment taking a shower and praying there. The husband comes in calling for her and she comes out of the shower.  He tells her it's a very strange time to be taking a shower while a battle goes on outside.  Or maybe Esperanza was just in a hurry to wash off the scent of sex on her body.  He says she was doing it with the dark skinned young man, Vicente. 


Esperanza laughs a little and says:  "Vicente?  You don't have the faintest idea, do you?"  She starts to sing her sexy song again and Vicente pushes her up against an armoire and holds her there by the throat.  He threatens to smash her in the face, but just slaps the armoire instead.  He sits down on the bed and says it's his fault because he should never have brought her to this "shit hole". 


The soldiers now leave their battle positions.  Most of them go back to the barracks.  One of the men complains that somebody's been messing with his locker. 


The officers and the sergeant wonder why an attack was launched  on Christmas Eve?  Headquarters thinks maybe it's got something to do with the prisoner they have looked up in the stockade.  They suggest that the prisoner be interrogated. 


A soldier comes running over to Lt. Gaio, saying they are having a big problem in the barracks.  There's a thief in the barracks.  Lt. Gaio goes to check it out. 


The attack begins again and again the soldiers have to man their battle positions.  Mortar shells rain down on the camp.  A soldier named Dinis is killed in the attack. 


The Captain tells Leonor to pack her things and be ready to leave here by helicopter in the morning.  Esperanza listens at the door.  Leonor wants to seduce the Captain, but he wants nothing to do with her.  He leaves. 


Soldier Badagaio tells the men in his group that they should kill that black prisoner they have. 


Leonor goes to the doctor to volunteer her services.  He accepts.  Another soldier rushes in to say that the prisoner has been stabbed twice in the chest.  They go and examine fhe prisoner.  He's still alive.  The soldier says that Badagaio and Maciel found the prisoner like this.  And now there is a slogan written on the cell wall:  "Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord out of the heavens." 


The officers now wonder why would someone wanted the prisoner dead?  They have ideas but no evidence. 


Gaio questions Maciel, the thief.  He accuses Maciel of using his knife to kill the prisoner.  Maciel confesses to taking a peek inside the lockers, but he didn't kill anyone.  So when Maciel was peeking in the lockers, who else did he see?  Maciel says he saw Viegas smoking a cigarette next to the jeep.  He also saw Larga-Larga and Sgt. Ferreirinha who almost caught Maciel.  And he also saw Lt. Gaio. 


The Captain goes to check on the wounded prisoner, who is still alive, but has said nothing.  Now the Captain sees Leonor helping the doctor.  The doctor's regular help is Vicente, but he hasn't been seen for hours. 


Esperanza finally catches the Captain alone.  She refers to him as her love.  He tells her to go away.  She says no. 


The doctor finds Esperanza a bit drunk, singing and dancing outside.  He grabs her and tells her to go home.  He pushes her in that direction.  A little later, the doctor finds Vicente dead.  Gaio says that Vicente was killed outside and his body was dragged to its present location.  The doctor reads a note found with the corpse.  It says:  "If  a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.  They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.  Pedro's wife knows the secret."  The doctor says Vicente died several hours ago. 


Gaio wonders who is this man Pedro?  He and the priest go to check Vicente's locker.  He can't open it, so another soldier takes over to try to open the lock.  Meanwhile, Gaio looks over a list of the names of the soldiers.  He says there are three Pedros listed.  Jose Perdo is Badagaio.  And the other Pedro is known as Frenchy.  The lock is now open.  Gaio examines the locker, but it's completely empty. 


Badagaio and Frenchy are brought over.  Badagaio is almost immediately dismissed as a suspect.  So the attention is focuses on Frenchy.  But then Frenchy is also eliminated as a suspect. 


Another attack begins.  Badagaio tries to save another soldier, but gets killed in the process.  Then the guitarist, Ze, gets hit and goes down. 


The captain writes a letter, sticks it in the Bible and then leaves his room.  Esperanza is hiding next to the room. 


An officer runs to retrieve an abandoned machine gun.  He is hit twice and goes down. 


Leonor gives her husband a gift:  a watch. 


The Captain now says they're going to cross the border and destroy the enemy's artillery.  Lt. Gaio will be in charge in the Captain's absence. 


The Captain tells Gaio what he and his men are going to do. 


Leonor finds the letter.  She takes the letter and gives it to Gaio, saying Pedro left this behind. 


The Captain reaches the border.  Now he takes the bazooka.  He then sends his three men back to Gaio.  It seems he wants to commit suicide by the enemy. 


Gaio reads:  "I don't expect to return from the mission so I want to make sure that you know the truth because nobody else should suffer the consequences of my errors.  I'm the one responsible for the death of Private Vicente, who did nothing to deserve his fate.   And I was the one who attacked the prisoner, in order to make sure he wouldn't testify against me.  Nobody helped me.  They were deliberate crimes motivated by pure egoism, to protect my reputation to avoid shame to hide a dirty little secret.  A secret that you probably already guessed.  I'm fully aware of the gravity of my acts.  I was always proud of being a man of honor, but I abandoned those principles, when I committed these heinous crimes, to maintain appearances, and I'm well aware of the punishment that I deserve."


Now the three men return from their mission.  Almost simultaneously, the Captain takes out the artillery piece with his bazooka.  The enemy soldiers now kill the Captain. 


Badagaio dies.  Gaio takes Viegas to see about the Captain.  The Captain is still alive.  They find him, but the Captain soon dies. 


Now reinforcements arrive at the camp.  The prisoner dies.  Leonor kisses her husband goodbye.


The commander will only report that the Captain died a hero in combat trying to save his soldiers.  He says the Captain deserves the highest medal.  Furthermore, Private Vicente died during an attack and the prisoner didn't survive his wound he suffered during his capture.  He throws the confession letter away and he says there are no gays in the army, and officers don't kill soldiers.  And Gaio will be the new commander of this company. 


The two women are taken away by helicopters.  Gaio says he's sure that the Captain did not kill Vicente. 


It was Esperanza who killed Vicente, the man in the way of her loving the Captain. 



Good murder mystery set in an historical context.  The mystery develops well, but we don't learn much history.  The mystery kept my interest throughout the film. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 








Historical Background:



Mozambique was a Portuguese colony.


1962 --  several anti-colonial political groups formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO).


1964 (September)  --  the rebels initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule.


1974 (April 25)  --  Portugal's return to democracy through a leftist military coup in Lisbon (partially as a result of the expenses from the wars in the overseas territories in Africa).


1975 (June 25)  --  Mozambique became independent from Portugal.








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