Written & Directed by Ermanno Olmi
The story behind my viewing of this film is quite fun. I had never heard of the film or the director for that matter, but when I entered into a friendly NFL competition I had no idea this would be the result. It was a suicide league. The objective? Pick a different team each week to win and the last man standing wins. In my league there were actually three “winners”, and each dictated a film to be watched by all the losers, which included me. This was the choice of one of those winners and the first of the three I have watched. Let me just say that this discovery is a perfect example of the joy of film. Just when you least expect it, when you hear of a film never before on your radar and cinematic magic occurs. It is a wonderful thing.
Giovanni (Carlo Cabrini) and Liliana (Anna Canzi) are a young couple engaged to be married. Giovanni is a factory worker and they often spend their time together at a local dance hall. The film opens on one such occasion and it is apparent that they are not happy together. Liliana does not want to dance, so Giovanni dances with another, but when asked by another gentleman, Liliana dances with him. Soon Giovanni is promoted and must travel to Sicily for 18 months, helping to develop a new plant there. Such a circumstance would normally place further strain on an already strained relationship, so how will these two handle it?
Right out of the gate this film was just stunning. And it starts with the editing, which is something I rarely notice except when it is used so effectively as it is here. Writer/director Ermanno Olmi intercuts a brilliant dance hall scenes that sets the mood for the entire relationship with snippets from the future, of Giovanni getting promoted and getting sent to Sicily. The inconsistency between the two, cutting back and forth is a great introduction to the two’s life together, as it begins to become their life apart, especially since it seemingly already has. The style only holds up for the first part of the film, settling back into a more traditional narrative until the ending.
But in addition to the structure of the film, the cinematography is stunning as well. I am a big proponent of great cinematography and often times I think it is one of the first things I look at. Visually stunning films are far more interesting in my book than those that are shot much more straightforward. Certainly there has to be a good story told well for it to stand up as well, and this film does that, but film is a visual medium and as such I love feasting my eyes on the imaginative visuals filmmakers come up with and this film does that. But none of it means anything if Carlo Cabrini and Anna Canzi aren’t convincing in basically the only two roles in the film.
These two actors work spectacularly in their respective roles. Cabrini’s sullen face delivery is great as he seems frustrated by his inability to please Liliana and the unfortunate circumstance of having to be away from her for 18 months. Canzi, on the other hand, seems just frustrated in general, and everything she is able to express with her face is amazing. Both are quite good, but Canzi is remarkable in the role of Liliana. The film opened with a bang and the ending was amazing as well. It slowed down in the middle, but it still managed to hold my attention and become invested in the outcome of this relationship. And it certainly shows that time only makes the heart grow fonder as the two find themselves deeply in love once again, but then again a storm is coming as we leave the couple, so who is to say they stayed together.