It is hard to find a work of art which satisfies on SEVERAL levels. Here is one. Gianni Amelio's film was originally made as a 4 hour film for Italian T.V. and was then brutally edited to just under two hours for theater release. This was due to its success, both critical and public, on being aired. Certainly those who were fortunate enough to savor the complexity of the 4 hr. version may have lamented the outcome of it's cinema 'brother'. On the surface this is an account of the fascinating days of early 'nuclear' physics, in the now famous laboratories of Rome's Via Panisperna where talented students under the leadership of Enrico Fermi made myriad discoveries about the proprieties of the atom. The 'genius' here was, however, not Dr. Fermi, but his retiring, reticent student Ettore Majorana, a young Sicilian of noble standing and of a lineage of scientific experts (his uncle was the famous scientist Quintino Majorana). Gianni Amelio (director of 'gems' such as "Stolen Children" and "Open Doors") here uses the subject matter to return to his own personal obsession... the relationship between 'father' and 'son' characters, the fragile condition of the 'genius', the struggle between ethics and ambition. Is it possible to see the 'original' Panisperna? If the answer is no, the 'for cinema' version still is well worth the experience. We will share in Ettore's quandaries so intensely and 'dangerously' portrayed by Andrea Prodan, we will re-discover the 30ies through Amelio's candid eye, and that of his amazing cinematographer, the late Tonino Nardi. Maybe Amelio's most private and honest film. See it.
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