“O Fantasma”, the debut film of João Pedro Rodrigues was hailed as one of the top 10 films of the year (2003) when first released and was praised as an ‘audacious and compelling, dark and erotic cautionary tale about Sergio, a marginalized young man (Ricardo Meneses) a trash collector living and working in the seedy north of Lisbon, exploring his sexuality. The film follows the young man’s odyssey, with its potential for self-discovery as well as self-obliteration with psychological insight and visual power. The story is bold, aesthetic, sexual and deeply and rightly disturbing.
Sergio is a young garbage collector with a gay fetish that includes masturbation with a shower head/hose in the shower, sex with a male policeman, nude frolicking in a public pool and a graphic oral sex which places this in my list of explicit mainstream films. This is a very strange movie and is something different. Sergio can’t force himself to connect with his pretty female co-worker Fatima, who displays an avid interest in him. Instead he roams the city with the trash company’s pet dog. He eventually becomes fascinated with a sleek motorcycle, and its owner, João, a young man who is totally indifferent to him. Sergio’s surfacing sexual desires unleash his darkest impulses, sending him down a dangerous path of violence, depravity and degradation.
Director Rodrigues follows Sergio’s bestial responses and his raw carnal urges. Whether cruising in toilets or wearing full-body latex, he is hungry for sex and never stops looking for it. In between hardcore action Sergio sinks further into a dreamlike abyss as porn meets existentialism.
The film has been described as a sexual peep show as it follows a walking sexually transmitted disease as he searches for sexual pleasure. Most of the film is set at night and to see it more clearly would have no overall affect on the movie and its lack of structure. Sergio also lacks structure and takes us into obscurity.