Cinematic Walls: Pedro Costa’s Mural Imagination

  • Estela Vieira Indiana University Bloomington
Keywords: O sangue, Denis Diderot, Georg Simmel, symbolism of walls, limits in cinema


This essay offers a reading of Pedro Costa’s first feature-length film, O sangue (1989). It explores the representation of different sorts of walls, their semantic inferences and functions, arguing that Costa's "mural imagination" speaks to the limits—or perceived limitlessness—of contemporary filmmaking. I show that in O sangue, walls emerge as tools for defining realism and its relation to cinema. Beyond this, they work as rhetorical strategies to interrogate the threshold between fact and fiction and between socio-political realities and artistic filmmaking. For Costa, walls emphasize the authenticity of fictional worlds and highlight the ways in which audiences relate to the realities and communities represented on screen.

Author Biography

Estela Vieira, Indiana University Bloomington

Estela Vieira is Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University Bloomington. Her teaching focuses on the literatures and cultures of Portugal, Brazil, and Lusophone Africa. She is author of Interiors and Narrative: The Spatial Poetics of Machado de Assis, Eça de Queirós, and Leopoldo Alas, and her current book project is on nineteenth-century Portuguese women writers. She has published articles on a range of topics, including cultural memory in film and literature, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the nineteenth-century realist novel, and modernist poetics.