Thirteen year-old Marta has recently moved back to southern Italy with her mother and older sister and struggles to find her place, restlessly testing the boundaries of an unfamiliar city and the catechism of the Catholic church.
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Set deep in the south of Italy, Corpo Celeste is the story of 13 year old Marta who is struggling to resettle after ten years growing up in Switzerland. Bright-eyed and restless, she observes the sights, sounds and smells of the city but feels very much an outsider. Marta is about to undergo the rite of confirmation. In the convention of the Catholic Church she takes catechism but confronts the morality of the local Catholic community. A series of subtle moments trace her journey as she connects and conflicts with her mother, sister and the Sunday school teacher Santa. From experiencing her period to making a bold decision to cut her hair, Marta begins to shape her own life for the first time since moving back to Italy. Corpo Celeste heralds the arrival of a young and distinctive voice. Alice Rohrwacher's writing and directing debut is a sensitive unveiling of the moral and religious layers that can smother adolescence.Written by
B&W Films Ltd
While I loved the nuanced and sensitive performance of Yle Vianello as Marta, I couldn't help but feel that writer/director Alice Rohrwacher's portrayal of the Catholic church in Corpo Celeste was an overdrawn caricature – that only reinforced the usual stereotypes against institutional religion. In contrast, the almost intuitive spirituality Marta possesses – of gentleness towards others, wonder at creation, curiosity about the world + its people, reverence for the divine – those elements could have been connected to broad Christian doctrines of natural revelation, love for neighbor, and the work of the Spirit, but they were not. Though the ending makes Marta's journey beyond the film feel uncertain, somehow I'm convinced (if it is possible to extrapolate) that Marta will be ultimately alright in the end. She may not find truth in the unfortunate parish she finds herself in, but she's much closer to the Truth than almost everyone else in the film. We see this in the innocent delight over the kittens that she joyfully shares with her classmates. We see this in her desire to understand the phrase from her catechism recitation "Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?" which she goes around repeating to herself without knowing the meaning. This forsaken uttering of Christ on the cross ironically rings quite true in Marta's life as she is mistreated by those in church leadership, cruelly bullied by her older sister, and witnesses powerlessly the brutal killing of the kittens. In spite of all the hypocrisy and vacuity of the parish, when Marta finds herself next to a huge dusty crucifix in a forsaken little village church, she instinctively uses her hands and shirt sleeve to gently and reverently wipe the dirt off the body of Christ. Somehow, in spite of it all, a real spirituality and an intimate relationship with Christ has been apprehended.
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