Moral Order a film by Mário Barroso

Synopsis

The story of a free woman.

On the 13th of November 1918, two days after the Armistice Agreement that put an end to the Great War, in a country plunged into deep poverty, chaos and anarchy, Maria Adelaide Coelho da Cunha, heiress and owner of Diário de Notícias newspaper, disappears from her residence at the luxurious São Vicente de Fora Palace. Her husband, Alfredo da Cunha, poet, playwright and director of the major Portuguese daily, calls for readers to help the police and the family find the missing wife. One of the most moralist, revengeful and punitive campaign in living memory has begun. Policemen and detectives are paid to launch the greatest “raid” in the whole national territory. The hunt for the crazy woman has started.

Forty-eight years old, Maria Adelaide escaped with her young lover, Manuel Claro, her 26-year-old former chauffeur. Without any money, clothes or jewelry. Driven by her deep sensual desires for her friend and by the will to liberate herself from the hypocrite, moralist yoke that suffocated her. Three weeks later, a true command bursts into their house without a warrant. Sent to the Conde de Ferreira mental institution thanks to the complicity of the greatest Portuguese psychiatrists, Júlio de Matos, Egas Moniz and Sobral Cid, Maria Adelaide will face long months of reclusion and both physical and mental violence. But she resists. With Manuel Claro’s help, she evades from Conde de Ferreira institution and takes refuge in Rossão. Detectives paid by her family find her refuge and take her again to the mental institution. Accused of abduction, rape and sequestration, Manuel Claro is arrested and threatened with an 18-year prison sentence.

The country is still caught up in violence and anarchy. The president Sidónio Pais is murdered. The reaction of the established powers against whoever disrespects the family institution is one of rare violence and hypocrisy. Maria Adelaide could only have given in to her lubricious passion because she had gone mad. Matos, Moniz and Cid confirmed her dementia, declaring her a hereditary degenerate, “deprived of civil capacity to govern herself and to administer her goods”, the Family Counsel states her legal interdiction.

Alfredo da Cunha is finally able to sell Diário de Notícias, a deal considered to be millionaire which she had always opposed and which would have been impossible without her interdiction. The newspaper then begins to defend the same political, economic and military interests that would seven years later, in 1926, install the dictatorship.

Without giving up, Maria Adelaide is able to get from the Minister of the Interior the decree that allows her discharge from the mental institution. From then on, thanks to her literary talent, she will denounce this whole wretched process, fighting at the same time for the release of Manuel Claro, which he ends up obtaining after being four years in prison without charge. Maria Adelaide’s legal interdiction is only lifted in 1944, after her husband’s death and the transfer of the goods she righteously owned to her son. She was 74 years old.

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