On September 27, 1810, the French troops commanded by Marshal Massena, were defeated in the Serra do Buçaco by the Anglo-Portuguese army of general Wellington.
Despite the victory, Portuguese and British are forced to retreat from the enemy, numerically superior, in order to attract them to Torres Vedras, where Wellington had built fortified lines hardly surmountable.
Simultaneously, the Anglo-Portuguese command organizes the evacuation of the entire territory between the battlefield and the lines of Torres Vedras, a gigantic burned land operation, which prevents the French from collecting supplies.
This is the setting for the adventures of a multitude of characters from all social backgrounds - soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, young and old - to the daily routine torn by war and dragged through hills and valleys, between ruined villages, charred forests and devastated crops.
Highly persecuted by the French, already tormented by an unmerciful weather, the mass of fugitives continues to move forward clenching the teeth, just to save their skin, loaded with tenacious will to resist the invaders and retreat them from their country. Or even hoping to take advantage of the disarray to satisfy their basic instincts.
All of them, whatever nature or motivations - the idealistic young lieutenant Pedro de Alencar, Clarissa Warren, the malicious little english girl, the shady dealer Penabranca, the vindictive Sergeant Francisco Xavier or the lusty prostitute Martírio -, all gather by different paths to the lines of Torres, where the final battle will decide the fate of each one of them.
« The French invasions of Portugal were undoubtedly far removed from my experience. I started out by comparing the mass exodus of populations forced to leave their war-torn lands with my own exile, thus making the narrative more personal.
There´s no arguing the emotional connection to this movie. After Raúl´s death, the producer Paulo Branco invited me to continue with the project. I was scared but never doubtful: I had to do it for Raúl. It was to be my tribute and the team´s – technicians and actors - who felt exactly like me.
Working with Carlos Saboga is always a delight. The scripts for the Lines of Wellington and The Mysteries of Lisbon are equally excellent and follow a structure more closely resembling One Thousand and One Nights than they do a Hollywood production. He bestowed great importance to female characters and that sets it apart form other war movies.
We filmed on exotic locations, mainly in the Oeste region, in an unique environment which, along with the movie´s cinematography and music, imprinted the mass departure of people with outstanding strength.
I´d never filmed so many people all at once but modern filming techniques made it a breeze. I believe it must not have been easy for the extras – some of them endured the same cold weather the French troops did – but I spoke to several that told me they had great fun.
The film ended up being more than a sentimental attachment. It was a challenge and a duty that gave me great pleasure and, for that reason, I thank all that took part in it.
I believe we all worked in a close dialogue with Raúl, who supported us from high above. »