Vitalina Varela

Vitalina Varela

Pedro Costa / 2019 / 124 minutes / Spine #37

A film of deeply concentrated beauty, acclaimed filmmaker Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela stars nonprofessional actor Vitalina Varela in an extraordinary performance based on her own life. Vitalina plays a Cape Verdean woman who has travelled to Lisbon to reunite with her husband, after two decades of separation, only to arrive mere days after his funeral. Alone in a strange forbidding land, she perseveres and begins to establish a new life. Winner of the Golden Leopard for Best Film and Best Actress at the Locarno Film Festival, as well as an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival, Vitalina Varela is a film of shadow and whisper, a profoundly moving and visually ravishing masterpiece.


• Exclusive interview with Pedro Costa (41 minutes)
Chantal + Pedro, a short film in which Chantal Akerman and Pedro Costa (or rather, their films) meet in a movie theatre, by Júlio Alves (2020, 8 minutes)
• Theatrical Trailer
• Booklet featuring an essay by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum



Read Pedro Costa’s 10/10 list



Casa de Lava (1994)


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  • “IT’S ESSENTIAL CINEMA. Socially conscious, but dreamlike, elegiac. Stunning pictorialism. In the opening shots of this film, one thinks of Goya and Velasquez; the clouds in the night sky evoke El Greco. Critic’s Pick.”

    — Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
  • “Having seen it a second time myself at home, I can attest that not only does the spell still take hold, but also that there is a strange solace, even refuge, to be found in its labyrinth of shadows. Dim the lights, cast your distractions aside and let Costa’s dark rooms merge with your own."

    — Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
  • “A ravishing masterpiece. The mystery and wonder of Pedro Costa’s filmmaking defies any specific category... Gorgeous. Transcendent."

    — Eric Kohn, Indiewire
  • "The best looking and most emotionally resilient movie of the year so far. Somber but (somehow!) electrifying, its frequent wordlessness, its consummate stillness, are a thrill.”

    — K. Austin Collins, Vanity Fair
  • “A singular visual, aural, and emotional experience… A lush, almost luxuriantly beautiful approach to light and color… Vitalina Varela (the actress) is mesmerizing… Essential viewing.”

    — Jim Hemphill, Filmmaker Magazine
  • “Three and a half stars! A breathtakingly gorgeous movie about love, death and immigration. A tremendous performance [by Vitalina Varela].”

    — Monica Castillo,
  • “Spectacular images, ideas, emotions, and performances. Costa endows the tale with a pictorial majesty. It’s a film that recovers the colossal symbolic power of classical American cinema.”

    — Richard Brody, The New Yorker
  • “The best movie of the year.”

    — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Sight and Sound
  • “Ravishing. A singular addition to Costa’s oeuvre, one of the most enigmatic bodies of work in contemporary cinema.”

    — Andrew Chan, 4Columns
  • “Gorgeously photographed. Has a conceptual rigor comparable to the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet and a visual beauty that evokes Rembrandt."

    — J. Hoberman, The New York Review of Books
  • “Breathtaking. Vitalina Varela is essential filmmaking from an essential filmmaker.”

    — Andy Crump, Paste Magazine
  • “Watching Vitalina Varela, I saw God — and I’m an atheist.”

    — Paul Schindler, Gay City News
  • “Every scene is a composition, an exquisite stage set, mysterious and shadowy… Ms. Varela’s face is as expressive as a silent-film star’s… Vitalina Varela is demanding, rewarding and ineffably stirring.”

    — Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
  • “Grade: A. A beautiful meditation on legacy, loss, and love. Visually masterful. Endlessly contemplative, transcendental.”

    — Jonathan Christian, The Playlist
  • “Masterful. Quite possibly the most beautiful film of 2020.”

    — Jordan Cronk, Film Comment
  • "One of the ten best films of the year."

    — James Quandt, Artforum
  • "Costa has made his most beautiful, haunting film yet. Vitalina is extraordinary."

    Film Comment
  • "A plaintive and piercingly beautiful vision... Pedro Costa is one of our planet’s two or three greatest living filmmakers."

    — Christopher Small, Sight & Sound
  • “Staggeringly beautiful."

    — Dave White, The Wrap
  • “Spellbinding. Dazzling. Conjures chiaroscuro wonder after chiaroscuro wonder."

    — Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter
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