Rua da Vilarinha & Manoel de Oliveira

Rua da Vilarinha (Vilarinha Street), in Porto, is a melancholy and dreamlike cobbled street in the prosperous part of the city. It stretches from Boavista to Circunvalação (next to the industrial area), being deeply affected by its surroundings, although it rests placidly on the immutability of its characteristics. I first got to know Rua da Vilarinha as a symbolic reality, which linked the archive documents of the movie director Manoel de Oliveira to the street he lived in. Because of it, I cannot help feeling that it embodies an immense cinematographic plan-sequence, disconnected from time and space and inseparable from the filmmaker’s experiences.

A few metres away from Vilarinha, the Avenida da Boavista trembles, so that the street is the result of the social, economic and cultural context that surrounds it. Nearby is the elitist CLIP (Colégio Luso-Internacional do Porto), the renowned Colégio do Rosário. It is obvious that the houses on the street are inhabited by Porto’s upper class. This is visible, when you walk along it from South to North. When you arrive to the Circunvalação, the reality is different. Contemporary-style housing is on the rise, side by side with shacks, neighbourhood grocer’s shops and car pollution, which is a constant on the Circunvalação. All this is seen as a palpable circumstance, which does not shake the life of the city (its stratification and the uninterrupted flow that forms it), but rather confirms it. What is felt is something other than the factual. It is the sea breeze whose almost imperceptible smell falls on me in the form of fog on the body. And a kind of fixation beyond the chronological rhythm, which makes Vilarinha an anachronism. At a certain pace, a tavern without a sign, dark as a cave, with bags and mugs of wine, with the spice of lunch already going out the door. Here and there a fountain, a flowery door, a silence. And the house: hidden in the trees, protected by high walls, deepening its mystery. In the first images I saw of Vilarinha, Manoel de Oliveira’s house stood amidst the pine trees, in an area with rural characteristics.  An example of modernist architecture — designed in 1940 by the architect José Porto, with interiors by Viana da Lima and exteriors by Cassiano Branco —(DGPC, n.d.)  that  was conceived as an utopia. The utopia of a filmmaker, who idealised a house without edges, looking to the maritime west, like a ship. Manoel de Oliveira recalls that the house was “wonderful” (2033/2019, p. 100), with windows “extremely open to the light and the landscape” (2003/2019, p. 100) and longitudinal walls “all curved and concentric” (2003/2019, p. 101).

In 1982 (the same time he was forced to sell the house), Manoel de Oliveira made Visita ou Memória e Confissões [Visit or Memory and Confessions], creating a testamentary artistic object that, for António Preto, turned out to be “prophetic.” (2019, p. 19). This is a film on a symbiosis between cinema, architecture and life. Everything begins in an individual unit (the body-dwelling), inhabiting a house which is like an organic extension of life, which fits into the art of illusion called cinema, which materializes a personal story (its philosophical and spiritual doubts, its possibility of dream expression), through a technique of projection (spectral) and a manipulation of space which lasts through time, like architecture. António Preto claims that “the house is an accumulator of time” (2019, p. 45). Which means that, “talking about a house may, therefore, mean talking about itself, and, in the case we are concerned with, about the very film-house we are talking about” (Preto, p. 45).

As intersubjectivity is immanent to poetic interpretation (Bachelard, 1996), it happens that a film about a house (a space, a landscape) can be confused with an individual life, but the appropriation that is made by those who enjoy it transforms this same individual act into collective memory (Halbwachs, 1968). That is why, when stepping on the cobblestones of Vilarinha, when absorbing the sun that arrives mixed with the Atlantic breeze, when listening to the chirping of the birds that keep the urban chaos away from the path, an indecipherable osmosis between realism and idealism, matter and memory (Bergson, 1939/1999), individual memory (autobiographical) and collective apprehension of the space occurs. For me, Rua da Vilarinha will always be the personal and artistic dream of the filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira, revived by the new sensations that I experience while walking along the street, on this specific day. As Bachelard states “we thus cover the universe of our lived drawings” (1996, p. 205).

I met Rua da Vilarinha through black and white images (photos of the house’s construction), by Manoel de Oliveira’s business cards, by the correspondence he received or sent. Later, Vilarinha stopped being an address, to become a house, in the film Visita or Memória e Confissões [Visit or Memory and Confessions], shown after the author’s death, by his express will. Perhaps influenced by the spectral side of the film, I walked along Vilarinha as if I were entering a space-time that does not fit into the concrete of life. The weeping tree (confirm) exists, it stands above the enormous gate. To know this house in this way, by what is suggested (what is out of the field) and not by what is visible, contributes to activate the imagination. Thus, we can build our imaginary city (which, in this case, is a street) from this sensitive point: a wall that does not let us see.

I continue through these marks of the past arriving at the border point of the street: the Church of S. Martinho de Aldoar (the Church of Vilarinha). From here on, the noises are different (the silence is replaced by the noise of construction work), because the Circunvalação can almost be seen and, before it, other perpendiculars that break the stillness. At the crossroads of the Church, a brief stop at the little alminhas [small sanctuary with dead souls] on the road. As common as so many others that populate our daily life, be it wandering or precise. But the act of stopping to see them makes them appear as an interpellation: “As you who are passing by, remember what they are suffering”.

Text and photos of Vilarinha’s Street: Teresa Lima

Manoel de Oliveira house: DGPC

Published on 13-05-2022


Bachelard, G. (1996). A poética do espaço (A. d. C. Leal & L. d. V. S. Leal, Trans.). Martins Fontes.

Bergson, H. (1939/1999). Matéria e memória (P. Neves, Trans.). Martins Fontes.

DGPC. (n.d.). Casa e jardim da Rua da Vilarinha, 431 a 475, também denominada Casa Manoel de Oliveira.

Halbwachs, M. (1968). La mémoire colletive. Presses Universitaires de France.

Oliveira, M. d. (2003-2019). José Porto por Manoel de Oliveira. In A. Preto (Ed.), A Casa (pp. 100-106). Serralves – Casa do Cinema Manoel de Oliveira.

Preto, A. (2019). Manoel de Oliveira: a casa futuro. In A. Preto (Ed.), A Casa (pp. 18-49). Serralves – Casa do Cinema Manoel de Oliveira.





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