The new film centers on two male characters: Jean de Dieu and Henrique (played by Monteiro), who are acting in Strindberg’s play “The Inferno,” in which de Dieu plays Lucifer and Henrique plays God. Offstage, de Dieu is the director of the play and Henrique an adventurous sailor who considers John Wayne’s sexy swagger to be nothing short of divinity.
De Dieu introduces Henrique to an author who writes a scenario in which the two men meet another mythical character, Ariane (symbol of liberty). As the two walk leisurely around town, a certain verbal rivalry between them becomes manifest.
Monteiro displays droll humor in playing on the public’s notions of — and anxieties concerning — God and Lucifer. Cerebral conversations about various topics, ranging from the most obscure to the most mundane, are often interrupted by irreverent, illogical moments and gentle humor.
Monteiro creates a distinctive world with technical assuredness and emotional control. As a stylist, he favors single, extended takes — the first sequence is an awesome theatrical tableau — avoiding close-ups as much as possible. For mainstream American moviegoers, the movie runs the risk of appearing too symbolic and pretentious, but for cinephiles, it represents a stimulating philosophical journey through some of Western civilization’s sacred ideas. Boasting one of modern cinema’s most creative and sophisticated minds, Monteiro belongs to a league of his own.