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It's the start of the 20th century, and Tuccio, resident playwright of a theatre repertory company offers the owners of the company his new play, "Illuminata". They reject it, saying it's not finished, and intrigue starts that involves influential critic Bevalaqua, theatre star Celimene, young lead actors and other theatre residents. Written by
This is the best film I've seen this year. I'll go further than that: it's better than all but a few films I've seen in the last two years, including "Shakespeare in Love." Does this mean that I am giving "Illuminata" a universal recommendation? Well, no.
If you love the theatre, go see this film immediately. Travel hundreds of miles to see it, if you have to. It will be a transcendent experience, and your faith in motion pictures will be strengthened (or restored).
If you don't feel one way or another about the theatre but enjoyed "The Golden Coach" or "Les enfants du paradis," you'll enjoy "Illuminata" just as much.
On the other hand, if you don't like the theatre, or if you want your movies to have something to do with Real Life...well, let's just say that "Illuminata" will be wasted on you.
On that note, it's worth pointing out that "Illuminata" takes place at an important moment in the history of western theatre. The screenplay doesn't dwell on it, but the film is in some ways a chronicle of the struggle between symbolism and naturalism that took place during the last quarter of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th. Our hero, Tuccio, has written a symbolist drama reminiscent of Maurice Maeterlinck's "Pelleas et Melisande," while the owners of the theatre want to produce "Hedda Gabler," by the naturalist Henryk Ibsen.
On film, a compromise is reached. In life, naturalism won out. Our stages are dominated by the likes of Ibsen, Chekhov, and Miller; contemporary plays look oddly like sitcoms.
Support the fight against naturalism -- see "Illuminata."
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