Friday, 17 October 2014


The rich density of Pedro Costa's form meets the clinical purity of its application in Horse Money, his latest piece on hermetic environments influencing damaged minds. The coldness of his technique and the warmth of the devices he employs achieve a characteristic austere decadence, each individually isolated and given full, unlimited space to flourish. There's an unmistakable poetry to what Costa does, an intense, heady beauty, bringing with it the sensation of smothered life, all existence roasting under the oppressive cloak of despair. It's supreme style, but to what end? Costa unites all of his artistic tools to express a legacy of pain among the indigenous population of Cape Verde and their descendants, largely as borne out in Ventura, an ageing man struggling to locate his sanity, lost in an institution that will reveal to him the essence of the challenges he faces in overcoming the past. It's a simple, basic purpose to which Horse Money has been put, though ripe for intensive probing - after all, the theme here is no less than the collective grief of an entire people - probing which does not surface. Costa appears to enamoured with the grandeur of his construct, the theatricality he finds so alluring, the momentousness of his intentions that he leaves it alone, a monolith of symbolism and archaic notions of artistic integrity that feel ungainly, under-developed, and actually quite pointless. One character even remarks that life has always been hard for Cape Verdeans, in such direct terms - the film acknowledges as much, and then acknowledges it again, and again, and again etc. It's plain old poverty porn, but it remains undeniable that no-one knows how to frame an image like Pedro Costa, no-one possesses anything like the talent that lies behind the sensorial sumptuousness of his films. Whether that redeems an otherwise questionable film, or vice versa, is difficult to determine.