Fairytales and fire stations merge in the new film from João Pedro Rodrigues.
Few filmmakers can count themselves as an ornithologist — or expert on birds — and a director, but Portuguese filmmaker Rodrigues is both. Now, he’s directed his first narrative feature since 2016’s “The Ornithologist” with the musical fantasy “Will O’ the Wisp.” The homoerotic, full-frontal-filled gay musical — Rodrigues himself, while also being a bird expert and filmmaker, is also openly gay — premiered in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight last May before wending its way around the festival circuit. Watch the trailer, an IndieWire exclusive, via here or the link below.
In “Will O’ the Wisp,” His Royal Highness Alfredo (Mauro Costa) is a king without a crown and also on a death bed, from which he’s taken back to distant memories from his youth, a time when he dreamed of becoming a fireman. In this chapter of his life, he encounters instructor Afonso (André Cabral) from the fire brigade, setting off a journey of love and desire that will change Alfredo’s life.
“Will O’ the Wisp” is also set, curiously, in 2069. “2069 is, of course, an eyewink allusion to 1969, the erotic year!” Rodrigues said in statements about the movie.
I thought it would be funny for anyone who knows Serge Gainsbourg’s song. When you see 2069 on the screen, it sets up a certain mood. The comedy starts. When the date disappears and there’s the shadow and the sound of a spaceship flying by, we continue with a tone that isn’t particularly serious.”
As for the film’s nudity, Rodrigues said, “I played with the reference to the firefighters’ calendar in which they are photographed scantily dressed. I took it even further by asking the actors to pose as if for a calendar but also to recreate the postures of characters that would be found in classic paintings. I really love the art of painting, and these are like pictures made in the spirit of Rubens or Velasquez. I wanted the viewer to understand, upon entering the fire station, that this fire station is special! A fairy tale fire station! Yet at the same time, the firefighters’ training sessions that we see are real, I followed them for several weeks, filming actual firefighters. The idea is still to enter a fantasy world through reality, romanticism through physicality.”
“Will O’ the Wisp” opens May 26 at IFC Center in New York and other venues to follow from Strand Releasing. The film was nominated for the Queer Palm at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
Watch the age-restricted trailer in the link below.