O Quinto Império - Ontem Como Hoje (2004)




Director:     Manoel de Oliveira.

Starring:     Ricardo Trêpa (El Rei Sebastião),  Luís Miguel Cintra (Simão, Sapateiro Santo),  Glória de Matos (Rainha D. Catarina), Miguel Guilherme (Truões), David Almeida (Truões), Ruy de Carvalho (Conselheiros),  José Manuel Mendes (Conselheiros ),  Luís Lima Barreto (Conselheiros),  Rogério Samora (D. Sancho I),  José Wallenstein (D. João I), Filipe Cochofel (D. Duarte), Nuno Cardoso (Noble), Carlos Gomes (D. Manuel), Ramón Martinez (Noble), John Jesus Romão (Moços de Câmara).

King Sebastian of Portugal, reigned 1554-1578


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.


A comet appears in the night sky. Two men are having a discussion in the dark of a castle. One fellow asks the other what is your government doing to you today? The fellow talking is a real critic of the government and the court and the other man.  He says the people are in poverty, his court favorites are all flatterers, the people are oppressed, his old enemy, the greedy lion of Castile, waits for an opportunity to jump on him and finish him off and his friends are untrue.

The other man asks the speaker if he has seen them? He says the older one carries a raised sword. "Have you ever heard of such a beast?" The other fellow says no, while the concerned man says he actually saw the beast. The beast viewer asks if the other man believes that the dead return to this world? The other man says if God wishes it, the dead can return to this world.

The beast viewer says he heard that the beast was "our first king" King Afonso I [reigned 1139-1185] and his son, Sancho, who has come to accuse our king now. He says he feels sorry for the present king.

A third man has been listening to the conversation and now approaches the two men to tell them to get out! The third man is the present King of Portugal  Sebastian I.. He sends the "critic" out, while the other man asks for forgiveness. This fellow says all the right things and the king is not harsh with him.

The young king goes to the sarcophagus of Afonso I. He tells his court that he wants to have the sword of their first king. It's the sword that the first king used to conquer the infidel. [Moorish rule and the Reconquista (711–1249). Portugal started in 1128.]

Now the king and his retinue walk over to the grave of King John II. The king asks that the top of the sarcophagus be removed so he may kiss the hand of the king. He reminds his men that King John II and his navigators found new worlds.

Now the king goes over to the grave of King Pedro I (Peter I) [reign 1356-1367]. The man was unfortunate in his affections for Ines. [ Constanza was Pedro's wife, but he fell in love with one of the ladies-in-waiting, Inês de Castro, the daughter of an aristocratic Castilian land-owner. He had an affair with Inês until Constance's death in 1345. The scandal forced Pedro to banish Inês from court, but the two began living together in secret. In 1355 Pedro's father Afonso IV had Inês killed. Pedro now rebels against his father.]

A servant brings the sword of Afonso I. The king hurriedly snatches the sword from his hands. The king says he is well aware the people mock him for his avoidance of women. The king wants to be known as a great King. He says he will show those skeptics of him what he can do.

The king speaks to his young nobles. He says that they will be reluctant to follow him into battle. One of the men says this statement is unfair. He says to the king: "You know perfectly well that we are ready to follow wherever you go." The noblemen leave.

The king speaks to the elderly woman that raised him, his regent and paternal grandmother, Catherine of Austria. She knows the king has big dreams of doing great deeds. The woman reminds him to remember that he is still very young. He says he loves her as a thankful grandson, but he is no longer under her tutelage. She asks him if her tutelage is a burden to him? But then she admits she does not have tutelage over him anymore. He tells her that she is much too concerned about his illness. She says she, who is childless, has lived for her boy. He says she can always stay at the castle. He walks her to her room.

Talking to some priests, the king says that they already know his plan of action. He will go beyond Africa, dislodge King Muloei Moluco from Barbary, expel the Turks and take Christianity to those savage places. He adds that Cid-Abdelcrim, faithful to Bailiff Mulei Mafamede, has demanded his help.

Now the boy king wants his three loyal men to tell him what they think of his plan. But the three men are afraid to criticize the plan. So the king says they can speak freely. And yet, the three men are very careful in what they say and how they say it. The Count finally says: "But, when left alone, your powerful imagination and fiery blood create deeds impossible to achieve . . ." He then starts talking about how women can soothe the savage heart. The king tells him to shut up. He doesn't want to talk about women. His heart won't be satisfied by so little.

Another man says that now is not the time for such expeditions. "The kingdom is poor . . ." He also says that His Majesty has not told them of the factors favoring the success of such an expedition. The youngest of the three men says they are not against the king, but against the ambitious plan.

The king doesn't know how to be reasonable. He claims: "You all abandon me because I wish to be the heir to my great ancestors, the representative of our once great race . . ." And now he asks them all to leave him.

Before they leave they ask the king to calm down please. They said these things in the interests of the Kingdom. He says all three of the older men are afraid. Afraid? Yes, they are afraid because they fear that the expedition might lead the Kingdom and the king to perdition.

The kings asks how do they know that God didn't seek a mere man to do his will? One of the men says that the king is blind. And this blindness is the result of ambitious flatterers that encourage the king onward. The king gets so frustrated by the wiser men that he lifts his sword in the air as if to bring it down on one of the men's head. One of the men says the king wouldn't dare do this.

The king sits back down. He says that he will fight the infidel and he will expand the kingdom. Now the wise men wish to leave. They leave.

The king leaves his room but now he hears a super critical voice that also says the king is blind. He plays the games of war, but his underlings always let him win. The throne has no heir and yet the king is not the least interested in producing one. The king is indifferent to anything other than his own ambition. His people laugh at him or hate him.

One of the court jesters, Short Leg, grabs King Afonso I's sword. He puts it down as the king approaches. The two men talk for awhile and Short Leg tells the king about some of the difficulties of the life of a court jester.

The king talks to God wondering if he is strong enough to be the Lord's captain? He says he has courage and tenacity . . . His thoughts are broken off by a voice that asks: "King Sebastiao, into what final disgrace will you drag your country?" He will make captives of the land's greatest nobles. Portugal will sink into poverty.

The king raises his sword and starts looking for the source of the voice. A man comes out from behind the curtains. It's the Holy Cobbler. The man absolutely denies that it was his voice that criticized the king. The king tells the man to confess that it was him and his voice.

The Holy Cobbler says that he came because he knew the king would need him. The king denies that he needs the Holy Cobbler. The Holy one says this his old friends are right. He goes on to say that the king's "enterprise is but a madman's ambitious dream." The king will be lost along with the best of his men. Furthermore, the king doesn't even know how to rule his own kingdom.

The king says that the Holy Cobbler is taking advantage of the king's weaknesses. The Cobbler asks: "Is it not the truth that you want?" The kings asks him to continue. The Cobbler says that the king is both a disabled and condemned man. He falls ill whenever he shows his strengths. He's also a man who hates ladies and maidens. Actually, the king does have good characteristics but he can't apply them because he has no common sense.

The king asks if the Cobbler thinks he should kill himself? Surprise, the Cobbler basically says yes. A little later he helps the king fall to sleep and dream. After awhile, he wakes up. He tells the Cobbler that he can't sleep at night. At night comes his dreams, ghosts and giants. He is afraid of the night.

The king says that his father died soon after he was conceived. He was born fatherless. [Actually, his father died when he was three years old.] The Cobbler says his mother went back to where she came from. So, says Sebastian, he had neither father nor mother.

Now the king feels sorry for himself. He admits that almost all the criticisms of him are correct. He cannot be God's Captain for he is too damaged. He tells the Cobbler that he knows that he is unworthy.

Another voice speaks. It says that the king doesn't really comprehend the true depth of his own unworthiness. The king asks if the Cobbler heard it, but the Cobbler says he did not. The king says that at night he is always hearing these voices.

The king says he figures there's only two ways out of this: glory or death; to win or to die. If he could win a great battle he could restore himself through glory. Or he could die and bring his whole kingdom down with him. And every person of his kingdom could also die.

Another out is that the king could become a myth, a legend. People will never forget the king because they will always be waiting for him to reappear. The Cobbler says this is what the king wants, he just didn't realize it.

The king falls to sleep. When the Cobbler leaves, the ghosts of the Portugal kings come to speak to Sebastiao. The ghosts talk of the desired fifth empire.

In the morning a servant puts the king on his throne. The king asks for music.

The king talks to some of his men who will be playing in the war exercises. The king seems happier today, perhaps because he is going to take the legend path for himself.  He starts talking about different things, including ghosts. Half the time the guys don't know what he's talking about. He just seems crazy.

The men ask for clemency for a man that is to be hanged today. The king says the man pointed his sword toward him. They say it was just a thoughtless gesture. The king says he is going to need discipline in his army, so go ahead and hang the man to teach the others a lesson. The men seem shocked at his decision and hesitate. The king asks or do you want me to hang you men? The king leaves. One of the men says to another: "Why don't we arrest this lunatic?"



Without some historical background, this movie is not easy to understand.  So read something in the historical background.  The film is like the filming of a theatrical play.  And the dialogue is rather complicated at times.  One of the actors says in the extra features that the author was mostly trying to analyze how the myth of Sebastian I of Portugal arose.  The king charged into battle and was never seen again.  People started saying that Sebastian I was not dead, that he survived the battle in which his army was defeated by the infidels  People started thinking that Sebastian I would one day return to Portugal and set all things right again. 

This film is somewhat of a classic tragedy.   The hero is of noble birth.  He was expected to do great things.  But he had severe inner limitations that handicapped him.  Sebastian had serious doubts about himself and was afraid of the dark.  Probably the thing he most wanted was to overcome his limitations and become famous throughout Portugal.  He ponders the different options open to him to become famous.  The play covers this internal battle within Sebastian pretty clearly.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Fifth Empire = God's promised kingdom on earth.

Historical Background:

Portuguese House of Burgundy (1139-1383)

1139-1186 -- reign of Afonso I.

1325-1357 -- reign of Alfonso IV.

1357-1367 -- reign of Pedro I.

Portuguese House of Avis (1385–1495)

1477 and 1481-1495 -- reign of John II.


House of Aviz-Beja (1495–1580)

King John II of Portugal died without an heir and the throne of Portugal passed to his cousin, Manuel, Duke of Beja.

1495-1521 -- reign of Emmanuel I (Manoel I).

1521-1557 -- reign of John III (João III).

1557-1578 -- reign of Sebastian I (Sebastião I).

1578-1580 -- reign of Henry I (Henrique I).

Portuguese House of Habsburg (1580–1640)

1581- 1598 -- reign of Philip I (Filipe I).




1554 -- the future Sebastian I of Portugal is born.

1557 -- Sebastian's grandfather King John III dies and at the age of three, Sebastian becomes King Sebastian I. His mother Joanna of Spain leaves her infant son behind while she serves as Regent of Castile for her father, Emperor Charles V.

Charles V abdicates and Joanna does the same job for her brother Philip II of Spain. Joanna remains in Spain until her death in 1573, never to see her son again.

Since Sebastian was still a child, the regency was handled first by his paternal grandmother, Catherine of Austria.

Then his great-uncle, Cardinal Henry of Évora became regent. This period sees continued Portuguese colonial expansion in Angola, Mozambique, Malacca and Macau.

Sebastian was bright, lively, strong, fearless, tall, slim and blonde. Later he becomes obstinate and impulsive.

The young king grew up under the guidance and heavy influence of the Jesuits. Aleixo de Meneses, a military man of solid reputation and former tutor and guardian of Prince John, was appointed tutor to Sebastian by the boy's grandmother, Catherine.

Other teachers included the priest Luís Gonçalves da Câmara and his assistant, the priest Amador Rebelo. Luís Gonçalves da Câmara became Sebastian's confessor, having previously been the confessor of prince John in 1550.

Sebastian becomes extremely devout. He carried a copy of Thomas Aquinas on his belt. He is constantly accompanied by two monks of the Theatine Order. As a child, Sebastian would react to visitors by running off into hiding with the monks.

1569 -- the plague was in Lisbon.

The Queen dowager of France, Catherine de' Medici, wanted her youngest daughter, Margaret of Valois, to marry Sebastian.

1572 -- Margaret marries Huguenot Henry Navarre.

1577 -- Sebastian proposes marriage to his first cousin Isabella Clara Eugenia, daughter of Philip II of Spain. Not accepted.

1578 -- at age 24, King Sebastian embarks on his crusade against the Turks in Morocco.

At the Battle of Alcácer Quibir (Battle of the Three Kings), the Portuguese army was routed and Sebastian was killed.

A legend of Sebastian is created. The legend was King Sebastian would one day return to Portugal.

The death of Sebastian led to succession crises. And worse it led to King Philip II of Spaint taking over Portugal as King Philip I of Portugal.

1578-1580 -- reign of King Henry I, a clergyman. Had no heir.

1580 (November) --one of the closest dynastic claimants was King Philip II of Spain who sent the Duke of Alba to claim Portugal by force. Lisbon soon fell.

1581 -- Philip was elected King of Portugal at the Portuguese Cortes of Tomar on condition that the kingdom and its overseas territories would not become Spanish provinces.

1581- 1598 -- reign of Philip I (Filipe I).




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