|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||17 reviews in total|
L'ora di religione is not a beautiful movie in any sense of the word. It is dark, the shadows and lights of Rome are matched by the moody vision of the director. Bellocchio plays with images Fellini style, but doesn't focus so much on the caricature in 8 & 1/2 style, but tries to convey the ambiguity of contemporary religious life. It's the ambiguity of modernity; cell phones versus pictures of the saints, the feared "immaginette" Italian kids grew up with. Nothing can change, but so much has changed. Bellocchio's movie style is ripe with symbols: a fat Jesus crosses the road with a plastic cross. Priests in the Vatican force african kids to climb stairs on their knees: the church is portrayed to exploit the same old mother load: the poor, the weak, the ignorant, the child. At some point Ernesto, the main character masterfully played by Castellitto finds himself involved in an incongruous duel with a symbol of a past so remote it appears comical: he loses the duel instantly as the swords cross. Nothing can change. Yet we can maybe hope to keep our identity, and even if god's pervasive presence deprives us of freedom, as Ernesto's son is taught, falling in love, shouting a blasphemous curse can be an act of individuality. Or maybe not.
Ernesto Picciafuoco is a painter and illustrator of children's books,
separated from his wife and father of the boy Leonardo, to whom he is very
close. One day he receives a visit from the mysterious Don Pugni who
informs him that the church has for the past three years been considering
the canonisation his mother, who was murdered by his mentally unstable
brother many years before. He is profoundly shocked by this news, not
merely because he has been kept in the dark by his family, but also because
it contrasts violently with his bohemian lifestyle as an artist, free man
and an atheist. The memory of his mother forces him to come to terms with
the past and also to change the way he thinks about his present
Trapped between the church on the one hand, which is determined to establish the truth of his mother's alleged martyrdom, and his brothers on the other, each in one way or another defeated by life and determined to re-establish the lost honour and respectability of the family, Ernesto presents them with his only mode of defence: his own mother's ironic and detached smile, the smile of a woman he has always considered "passive, simply stupid, and even a little cold". He is constantly on the move, thrown between family get-togethers, an interview with the cardinal Don Piumini, an illogical and anachronistic duel at sunrise with the eccentric Count Bulla to whom honour is everything (and once again it is his mother's wry smile that betrays Ernesto's true feelings), and a meeting with a mysterious and beautiful young woman who may or may not be his son's R.E. teacher; a woman to whom the door to his atelier is curiously always open.
Initially, I was worried that I wouldn't understand the issues dealt with in the film, as they are specifically Italian in nature. Thus the "vittoriano" monument in Rome, detested by the vast majority of the Italian population is a recurrent symbol in the film, as is obviously the theme of sanctification and the papacy as a whole, coupled with the debate about the fascist past and the royal family (in exile since the end of the Second World War). However, I loved the film, because it is not truly about these specific aspects of Italian culture and society; rather it uses these to probe deeper into the human psyche. Obviously the theme of religion plays an important role (incidentally, I don't at all agree with the English translation of the title, the Religion Hour, which means nothing: it should much rather have been translated as "Religious Education" or something of the sort, in order even to come close to the Italian double sense of Leonardo's class at school as well as his father Ernesto's sudden obligation to confront the issue), but it is not about the Catholic religion as such, but rather a more personal faith. In Ernesto's case, this faith turns out not to be in God, but in the love of a woman.
It is to a large extent a very strange film (Bellocchio himself has described it as a "very bizarre detective story"). The duel with Count Bulla, Ernesto's threefold betrayal by his mother's smile (the subtitle of the film), and the unexplained significance of the "vittoriano" monument are all very difficult to understand, but this impact of the film in undeniable, and although any concrete message that the film might be trying to deliver remains opaque, the ultimate point is for the individual viewer to extract some personal significance from the film and to think about some of the themes presented -- I went to see the film in the evening and spent the entire following day thinking about it; how often can you claim that about a film?
The strong performances by the cast and the interesting array of characters coupled with the dreamlike and at times surreal images make for a beautiful, at times magical (such as the wonderful scene at the end when Ernesto chases Diana around his flat), and always intriguing. Beautiful: 10/10
Interesting, hard to categorize (not a tragedy, not a comedy, maybe somewhat of a satire?) movie about a son who's mother (assumed to be anything BUT saintly) is being recommended for Sainthood. Movie seems to believe that the Catholic church hasn't done a very good job of assessing her qualifications....and given the current problems the Catholic Church is facing in America....it's quite believable. The tone is pretty somber; some of the plot is confusing at times, and I wondered if there was supposed to be a "higher meaning" than the action on screen? But even though there seemed to be lots of loose ends, it made me think....though no conclusions could be drawn. Part of the Chicago International Film Festival....fits that genre well.
I can only say that in the poor Italian cinema scenario, a film like this
one from Marco Bellocchio definitely has an important role.
Nothing to do with the best Bellocchio's filmography but considering how difficult is to treat this argument in a very politicized Vatican environment, this film gives you at least some good arguments to think about.
Sergio Castellitto gives his best, his acting is well according to what you would have expected from his character. The film at the end is a bit unconcluded but worth surely its view.
Started watching this and almost turned it off. It had all the makings
of a yuppie fantasy with exotic intellectuals pretty people
architecturally perfect settings and so on. Turned out I was wrong.
In fact the movie turned into a satire about religion, a lot of the characters I took as exotic yuppie fodder were meant to be parodies.
Almost passed up what might be a good film. I say might be because I had little immediate emotional or intellectual enjoyment. Also there is a big fat pseudo-intellectual element to the whole thing. The director writer etc... mentally buzzing on some high plunk down things they think are terribly clever such as a smiling Mona Lisa with moving lips the size of a room--which in fact are empty ideas. However, I always hope movies like this operate on my subconscious and leave some sort of useful traces there. Mostly they are disjointed nonsense my subconscious has to wall off.
We will see... don't recommend it...the satire on religion was a good idea but too much wacky junk.
I really enjoyed this film. I think that Sergio Castellitto was brilliant. He is one of my favorite actors and he did not disappoint me at all in this film. I recommend that you rent it if you are in the mood for a very interesting story and great acting. Yes, it was one of those films where you interpret the ending, but so much the better. I like to think after a film and not be fed any formulaic plot-- which this film did not follow at all. I hope Sergio Castellitto continues to get cast in these great roles. I loved him in "Ne Quittez Pas" too! Oh, it's too bad that these films don't get released in America though! Euros can get kind of pricey!
"My Mother's Smile (L'Ora di religione: Il sorriso di mia madre)" is a
rollicking take on Catholicism that's very like how "I Heart Huckabees"
treated existentialism, but with even more Tom Robbins-like absurdist
Almost Kafka-like, with a touch of Woody Allen, the central character is the straight man in the joke, particularly with Sergio Castellitto's hang dog look (he was the Italian lover in "Mostly Martha") as he wakes up one morning to discover that his mother is about to be declared a saint.
We see the impact of this hypocritical quest on his ex-wife, brothers, old friends, aunts, priests and other people he has to come in contact with over two days, as everyone has selfish reasons for promoting sainthood. The potential canonization also becomes a vehicle to examine violence, sin, madness, ambition, love, parent/child relationships, philosophy, and art, as the central figure is an artist and the titular expression is captured in a Mona Lisa-like portrait.
The satire goes a bit overboard, though, when the son is challenged to a duel at dawn, though I think there was some point about the pointlessness of archaic societal rules. Small characters are weighted with too many meanings, like a crazy architect seeking to blow up a national monument that figures in a souvenir photograph, a witness whose name is a pseudonym from Dante, a mysterious, beautiful religion teacher, and more symbolism that went by, particularly as this is one of those typical Italian movies where the subtitles seem abridgments of the conversations.
In a lovely twist on the pieta, the most moving scenes are the paternal ones between father and son.
The soundtrack includes beautiful contemporary classical religious music including Adams and Tavener.
Marco Bellocchio's new movie, `L'ora di religione,' has one of the more
peculiar premises in cinematic history: an artist and illustrator (I'm
afraid he's a movie artist, whose work and life are rather vaguely and
glamorously sketched in) learns that his recently deceased mother, whom he
thought a bore and a fool, has been proposed by the rest of his family for
sainthood, and has a good chance of getting it, and the Vatican wants to ask
him a few questions about her death. The artist is stupefied and so are we.
Whether we are fascinated and intrigued is another question. The other
family members behind the canonization project have enough pretension and
influence to want more of what they've already got, and the idea is that the
secondhand publicity they'll receive through having a beatified mom will add
to their social, political, and financial success. Ernesto Picciafuoco,
the artist, is not only appalled by this new development, but also troubled
by the simultaneous discovery of his own young son's apparent burgeoning
religiosity. What follows is a meandering investigation of the two
situations. Ernesto (Sergio Castellitto) looks a little like Dustin Hoffman
but with more `there' there. He has to have presence and intelligence to be
at the center of an examination of religion that is as complicated, quirky,
and provocative as the one that occupies `L'ora di religione.'
Castellitto's naturalness and humanity do a lot to make the risk of such a
weird premise pay off. His scenes with Gigio Alberti as Ettore, his little
son, are absolutely charming and young Alberti is wonderfully spontaneous
If only the other family relationships were as natural and made as much sense. For me the movie fails to come together, partly, I admit, because the Catholic church has never been a big concern of mine, and partly because of flaws in the screenplay and the style that make the story even harder to follow than it would be anyway. Every role other than Ernesto's and Ettore's is more or less a cameo. There are complicated theological disputes that are suddenly broken off by surreal fantasies. (Bellocchio wavors back and forth between satirical realism and obscurantist hyperrealism, and the combination doesn't work well here.) There is the too-perfect and too-beautiful Diana Sereni (Chiara Conti), the teacher of Ettore's `ora di religione' (religion class), who has apparently inspired Ettore's precocious religious crisis and whom Ernesto promptly falls in love with at their first meeting. Instead of a dubious influence as seemed at first, she eventually appears to be a better candidate for sainthood than mom, just on the basis of the magical glow around her face when she's onscreen. Ernesto, with Castellitto's able assistance, despite the odd premise and the shaky plot development, continues to retain some degree of three-dimensionality throughout, but the others tend to the stereotypical. The artist's estranged wife pops up every so often only to help Ernesto take young Ettore to school, a scene that recurs with tiresome repetitiveness.
The Vatican `investigation' that draws in Ernesto aims to discover whether a brother, currently incarcerated, murdered their mother in her sleep, or, as a new rumor has it, whether the mother was awake and forgave her son for doing her in. A favorable answer to this question might tip the scale for mom from the merely super-nice into the saintly category, or from the saintly into the canonizable. Unfortunately this whole issue also strained my credulity far beyond its capacity. Ernesto's bizarre interview on this topic with a Cardinal, Don Piumini (Maurizio Donadoni) in what appears to be a Vatican dining hall for poor and disabled people, is memorable if only for Piumini's stylized manner and strong presence. (One concrete thing I learned from this movie is that Italian Catholic clerics wear the latest chic eyeglasses.)
Equally bizarre is a gathering of rightwing ideologues led by a certain Count Bulla, who challenges Ernesto to a duel. What century are we in? Bellocchio's movie is outrageously personal. In America we'd call it self-indulgent; but he's Italian and this movie is serious and intellectual enough to have been the only Italian entry at Cannes. There is a waste of skill and talent here. This is a gifted filmmaker, and these are excellent actors, and this is material of potentially enormous importance to the audience (if not to me). For some it will all work. It will seem tremendously original and thought provoking. For others it will be cause for head shaking and rueful remarks about what ever happened to the great Italian cinema of those wonderful twenty years of cultural flowering in Italy after the end of World War II. Rossellini, De Sica, Fellini, Visconti, Antonioni: where are you now when we need you?
Marco Bellocchio is a voice in the Italian cinema that has been present
for about four decades now; he is still going strong. Like a good wine,
Mr. Bellocchio gets better with the passage of time. His latest film to
get a commercial run is "Ora di religione". This is a complex movie
worth taking a look at it, as it presents us a different input on how
the director, who also wrote the screen play, views religion, and the
Catholic Church in general.
Italy is a supposedly Catholic country. Like the rest of Europe, Italy is going through a change in the way the Catholic Church exerts its influences in everything. More and more, people are asking about what they were taught as children and the realities of modern life where science explains mysteries that were not questioned before.
If you haven't seen the film, perhaps you should stop reading here.
Mr. Bellocchio decides to take a look at the issue of sainthood and its ramifications, as it affects a bourgeois family in turmoil. The Picciafuoccos come from a family of five sons. Egido, has killed his mother, who is being considered for canonization because someone claims he has been cured of a horrible fatal disease by praying to the matriarch of the family.
At the center of the story we find Ernesto, the artist son. He becomes concerned when Irene, his estranged wife, tells him about a change in their young son, Leonardo. This boy has become obsessed with the dogma being taught to him in his school. In his young mind, Leonardo can't differentiate between reality and what he has learned. Thus, he feels about talking to God, because he's everywhere.
Ernesto learns about the possibility of his mother being declared a saint by a cardinal who wants to interview the family and clarify an aspect of her death. The machinery has been set in motion. Ernesto realizes with horror how the family is affected by the news. Ernesto gets to realize what each brother, as well as his aunts, stand to benefit when his late mother be declared officially a saint. The wheels of commercialism have been set in motion and they will not stop the personal ambitions from each one in the family.
In Sergio Castellitto, the director has found the perfect actor to play Ernesto. Mr. Castellitto has demonstrated he is one of the best actors of the moment, as well as an excellent director. He gives an amazing performance as Ernesto, the son that questions his family's motives as well as what he sees in that society.
The ensemble cast is wonderful. The film is dark. It kept reminding this viewer of some of the best films of the Italian classic cinema without imitating any style at all. Mr. Bellocchio is an original who has his own voice. He questions a lot of things that most of us have taken for granted, but are unresolved in the prodigious mind of Marco Bellocchio.
This is an interesting film which purports to show how candidates for
sainthood are chosen and how related parties can have an influence. A
woman is being considered for sainthood, but her son thinks of her as
anything but a saint and is surprised that so many people want to make
her a saint. It is because most of them have something to gain from it.
Some of her relatives want her to be a saint because being a relative
of a saint can have personal benefits.
The only fault I noticed is that the English subtitles could have been clearer - often the subtitles are shown a light background making it hard to read although I was able to read enough to get an idea of what the picture was about.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|External reviews||Official site||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|