|Index||3 reviews in total|
What starts as a light-hearted story, as our hero makes a ludicrous attempt to ignite a revolution, quickly turns into a tragic tale of a basically nice guy who tries to preserve his ideals in inhumane conditions. Although the script is an adaptation of a Tolstoy's short story, it looks more like something Kafka would have written if he had had more sympathy for his characters. The film reminds me of a 19th century caricature by Honore Daumier: a kid breathes on the windowpane of a shop, is caught by a guard, brought to trial, spends his entire life in jail, is released an old man, comes to the same windowpane and defiantly breathes on it, another guard arrives, but the man is already dead. The most beautiful scenes can be found at the end of the film, where the splendid and barren landscape of Venetian marshes is used as the adequate setting for the almost unbearably poignant finale.
One of the Taviani brothers' less widespread works, a free adaptation of Lev Tolstoy's tale «Divine and Human», this film runs rather smoothly for 90 minutes, considering the leading character's frequent spells of verbose rhetoric, a 19th century Italian anarchist who fancies a new social order with a handful of followers, and the difficult section that describes his stay in prison during ten years in a solitary cell. The project mostly lies on the shoulders of actor Giulio Brogi, who gives a consistent portrait as Giulio Manieri, an idealist almost gone crazy, a man raised in a rich milieu who turned his back to the "good life", became an ice-cream vendor and fought with and for the peasants of his region, in line with many international struggles for justice and reforms that marked the second half of the 19th century. But the Tavianis also know how to handle their stories and keep us interested, especially in the already mentioned enclosed sequence in prison through sounds and visual metaphors. Their "mise-en-scène" is economical, they avoid visual flourishes, but I could not help noticing the grace of their soft camera movements, or the way they transmitted the sense of sudden, fleeting freedom when Manieri leaves his cell and begins the travel to a new prison. The camera, installed on a boat, suddenly leaves the action behind and makes a long and beautiful travelling of open space, all sky and sea. During this last act of the film, Manieri dismayingly learns from young revolutionaries how the world changed and his actions were forgotten, to the point of considering his generation guilty that the emergence of the labor movement was delayed by ten years. In these days of forgotten ideals and desecrated human rights, when political patriarchs die and dubious leaders take power, this is a most timely motion picture.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
for those hard-core taviani brothers fans, this is a treat. Slow going and
with little action, the story recounts the attempts of an anarchist to start
a revolutionary movement in rural italy in the late '800s. His attempts
fail and is incarcerated for a decade in isolation. Cut off from human
contact, in order to keep his mental sanity, he stages simulated political
meetings in his cell, and fastasizes gourmet meals while eating prison food.
At the end of the movie, in a rare outing, he exchanges words with a
younger and newer generation of political prisoners, but instead of finding
common ground, realizes that his ideology has been ignored by the
generations that followed. A slow movie, like all Taviani films, but very
symbolic. A rare "political" movie, that US audiences might have trouble
following without knowing much about the political movements that existed in
Europe in the 800s. Slightly similar in concept to "Cristo Si E' Fermato a
Eboli", the latter being more pleasant with its travelogue mix of Southern
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