It’s almost required to have seen Colossal Youth before approaching Pedro Costa’s latest effort. Whereas Colossal Youth was a film about revisiting one’s own past, Horse Money is much more focused on escaping one’s own past. Costa’s progression in his Fontainhas works progressively get closer and closer to the surrealist narrative that he masterfully crafted in Horse Money. Costa’s hyper-realist set-up in his 2000-masterpiece, In Vanda’s Room completely captures the state of poverty that his subject lives their day-to-day life in, without any sense of condescension. As Costa begins to move away from the hyper-realism from Vandato his next Fontainhas project, Colossal Youth, he begins to experiment with different forms of onscreen direct and indirect visual metaphors. The symbolism In Vanda’s Room is much embedded in the context of the dense thematic work he has presented his audience with, whereas Colossal Youth is much more through Costa’s magnificent imagery and staging. In Colossal Youth, Costa introduces his audience to Ventura, who makes for one of the most compelling and enigmatic subjects in all of 21st-century filmmaking. Colossal Youth works as introducing to Ventura as he revisits his past. Having what are the quintessential examples of naturalistic conversations, Ventura reassociates himself with the faces of his past as he acts out as an always welcoming open-ear to all of those that he once knew.
All of the work that Costa has gradually been building up to in his Fontainhas works come to a head in Horse Money, as Costa crafts his most surrealist work to date. The mind-boggling prolific imagery that each and every frame displays is something for the ages. The deliberate staging not only allows for some of the most beautiful imagery ever put on screen, but it also encapsulates the headspace of Ventura. Reflecting Ventura’s struggles to relieve his past, Costa uses his surroundings to mirror his current state. The empty hallways and caves reflect the emptiness that surround Ventura. The most “un-Costa-like” element in Horse Money is a musical montage that falls right in the middle of the film. With Alto Cutelo by Cape Verdean group, Os Tubarões playing over brief, but nonetheless prolific imagery of Fontainhas residents each in varying states of isolation. One wouldn’t think that a four-minute montage (approximately) featuring a rather vibrant piece of music to flow perfectly in with the often frequent silent nature of the film, but the imagery perfectly complements the audio. Costa uses this montage to reflect on how some are content with their state of isolation. Going all the way back to In Vanda’s Room, Costa puts a strong emphasis on the faces of his subjects in each and every one of his compositions. Using intense blocking of putting his subject significantly closer to the front of the shot and having the rundown setting that they are surrounded by as the backdrop, Costa quickly cuts between an array of different walks of life; ultimately creating what is undoubtedly the culturally significant piece of cinema of the year.