Two Portuguese colonial officials reach a remote ivory-trading post on the Congo. Their brilliant white uniforms mark them as foreign bodies in the jungle and as ‘mundele’ – ghosts in the eyes of the natives. They are supposed to get trade flowing again following the death of the former station chief. Yet the hired workers make little effort to procure new reserves. While the carefree Sant’Anna seeks amusement in alcohol, music and the natives, his superior João de Mattos is soon struck down by malaria, and the waiting and isolation in the jungle gradually fan the flames of mistrust and delusion.
Hugo Vieira da Silva’s adaptation of the titular Joseph Conrad story is a multilayered exercise in mimicry in which the ghosts of colonial history take on manifold bodies and garbs to haunt the setting. Its idiosyncratic direction not only makes use of sophisticated visual effects and fascinating images but also borrows from the silent-film aesthetic. In the end, there is no escape for Sant’Anna and João de Mattos – we all know history repeats itself as farce.