Based on a sprawling 19th-century novel by famous Portuguese author Camilo Castelo Branco, this epic film brims with period color and intrigue. When Joao, a teenaged orphan, asks his caretaker, Padre Dinis (Luz), about his origins, the kindly priest (who holds many secrets himself) discloses that the boy is actually the son of a highborn countess. The Padre even arranges a mother/son reunion when Joao gets injured. This meeting becomes the springboard for a continent-hopping, decade-spanning tale of stories-within-stories, overstuffed with tragic romance, double-crosses, shifting identities — even pirates!
Don't let this stunning film's four-hour-plus running time deter you from experiencing its expertly crafted pleasures. In what would turn out to be his last film, Portuguese master Ruiz orchestrates a lush, captivating experience; it moves with the sort of fleetness one doesn't normally find in stately costume dramas. Though this dizzyingly ambitious work overflows with juicy subplots and unexpected twists, Ruiz proves himself a sufficiently deft and assured filmmaker to keep us on course and hooked throughout. The result: a cinematic tour de force. By all means, unlock these "Mysteries" as soon as you can.