Tutti gli articoli di Arianna Chiesa


Translated by: Benedetta Francesca De Rossi

Article by: Giuseppe Catalano

There’s nowhere to run

A group of extremely dangerous Korean criminals leave the port of Manila on a hyper-secured cargo ship to return home, where they will finally be tried for their crimes. What could possibly go wrong? 

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Translated by: Benedetta Francesca De Rossi

Article by: Marco di Pasquale

What Ery Claver tries to tell metaphorically with Our Lady of The Chinese Shop is the exploitation of Angola. After Portuguese colonialism, the country became the target of the economic interests of China, which has recently invested in several African countries to profit from the enormous mineral and natural resources.

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In a poor neighbourhood of Luanda, during the Covid-19 pandemic, hopes and fears are projected in plastic icons of Our Lady sold in a small Chinese shop. The owner, Zhang Wei (Meili Li), punctuates the timing of the story and his voice, in a mysterious and poetic tone, offers the viewer a further interpretation of what is shown by the camera. He, the omniscient narrator, sees and knows everything about the stories that intertwine in the film: Domingas (Cláudia Púcuta), consumed by grief at the loss of her daughter, and Zoyo (Willi Ribeiro) in search of a missing friend. Their repressed resentment is reflected in the restless movements of the camera, which does not stop even in the most static scenes. The two characters metaphorically represent the country’s feelings of revenge against its rulers. If the old Portuguese colonisation is represented by the strong presence and importance of the Catholic religion in the community, Chinese economic dominance is shown through the bright neon signs of Xiaomi, a smartphone company.

The society represented by Ery Claver seems desperate for guidance. Religion has nothing to offer but plastic figures, while politics and its decadence are represented by a surreal and parodistic meeting of the Chinese Communist Party, staged in a city arena that was never completed and is now in ruins. The only way, the director suggests, is that of rebellion. Zoyo, in an act of desperation, destroys the Chinese shop and its icons, while Domingas finds her emancipation in revenge on her abusive husband responsible for the death of her daughter. The discourse brought forward by Ery Claver, through allegories and shots with a strong symbolic charge, takes on a universal character of protest against the new and silent forms of exploitation and colonialism perpetrated in poor countries throughout the world.


Translated by: Benedetta Francesca De Rossi

Article by: Alessandro Pomati

Albania, 1985. After 40 years of indiscriminate exercise of power, the dictator Enver Hoxa died, creating a still unbridgeable void in Albanian politics. Under his leadership, the country experienced some of the darkest pages of its history, and the repression was followed by a diaspora of anything but modest dimensions, with Italy as one of its points of reference in many cases. Redi Hasa, a professional cellist who has been active in Italy for many years, was one of the protagonists of that diaspora and, through his speeches, the consequences of those forty years on the individual and the community are analysed.

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And it is he whom Esmeralda Calabria – editor, among others, of Nanni Moretti and Giuseppe Piccioni -, in her first attempt behind the camera, uses as a “cicerone” for her story, rejecting the convention of so much cinema of the real of having only one narrator and choosing instead to make him converse, in front of the camera, with friends and relatives who have experienced what he experienced.  In front of the camera, therefore, anecdotes and considerations are made between the participants, thus making the narration fluent and colloquial, and avoiding any didacticism; art, politics, ideals and identity are discussed with respect to what one is and what one wants to become.

But before looking forward, Calabria seems to want to say, one must necessarily look back, and thus return to the ‘scene of the crime’, Albania, where among the still standing vestiges of that infamous past, the wounds are still open, and one continues to wonder, even when nothing wrong has been done, if more could not have been done; all the while, as some of those interviewed recall, none of the real perpetrators has ever apologised for the atrocities perpetrated. “That was not communism,” says one former theatre actress interviewed, “it was dictatorship pure and simple“. And it is precisely the films featuring the leaders of that dictatorship that become the privileged material for Calabria who, with a thirty-year career in post-production, succeeds in making unprecedented, almost expressionist use of them: projecting them now on the wall of a cave, now on a brick wall, the director effectively evokes that climate of closure and terror from which Hasa (who, born in 1977, knew the period of instability following the fall of the regime better than the regime itself) escaped, and like him thousands of others.

Yet, even after landing and making a career in Italy, the guilt remains: guilt for having fled, guilt for not having done enough for his country in perpetual political crisis, guilt for having left his parents; and a feeling of perpetual statelessness persists. Only a direct confrontation with his homeland, strengthened by what he has learnt on the other side of that wall, as happens in the powerful finale, can put things back on an even keel.


Godland, ultimo film di Hlynur Pálmason, già vincitore della sezione lungometraggi del Torino Film Festival con A white, white day (2019), è una storia di frontiera, il racconto di un prete e fotografo danese (Helliott Crosset Hove) costretto a percorrere l’impervio territorio islandese per raggiungere un villaggio della costa sud-occidentale e costruirci una chiesa. Della spiritualità religiosa, tuttavia, rimane solo il corpo – la carne del mondo nella sua ineluttabile decomposizione. Una spiritualità, quindi, costantemente rigettata nella visceralità delle carni animali, nella trivialità del fango fuori dalle chiese e nell’imprevisto volo di una mosca sul volto senza macchia di un prete. 

Article by: Federico Lionetti

Translated by: Noemi Zoppellaro

Godland, the latest film by Hlynur Pálmason, already winner of the feature film section of the Torino Film Festival with A white, white day (2019), is a frontier story, an account of a Danish priest and photographer (Helliott Crosset Hove) forced to travel across the impervious Icelandic territory in order to reach a village on the southwest coast and to build a church there. However, it is only the body that remains from the religious spirituality – the flesh of the world in its inevitable decomposition. A spirituality, therefore, that constantly falls into the viscerality of the animal flesh, into the triviality of the mud outside the churches and into the unexpected flight of a fly on the spotless face of a priest.



Translated by: Bendetta Francesca De Rossi

Article by: Francesco Ghio

Having a proper compass on which one can rely can often prove to be a necessity in order not to lose one’s way too much; especially in a society which changes its skin year after year. Sometimes the right compass can be found close by, in one’s own backyard, in the apparent simplicity of a sentence spent by a person close to one’s heart; at other times, it is necessary to move away, especially if one’s loved ones, or at least those who once were, have emigrated, crossing borders, hoping for a better future.  Daniele Vicari’s Compass for over ten years was Ettore Scola and Orlando, presented out of competition at the 40th Turin Film Festival, is dedicated to him.



Written by: Alessandro Pomati

Translated by: Lia Colombo

Two people are wandering in the depths of the wood; a bus drives into a tunnel whose exit cannot be seen; a thick blanket of smoke. These are just a few of the images that Stefan Costantinescu’s first feature film exploits. On one hand, the viewer can perceive the disorientation that Doru (Bogdan Dumitrache), a laborer who has emigrated to Sweden from Romania, feels upon his return. On the other, we witness his wife Nicoleta (Ofelia Popii), his teenage daughter, and his arteriosclerotic mother’s way of “welcoming” him “back” with no more than surprise and coldness; the only one to feel any genuine emotion seems to be his faithful dog Amza. Behind Doru’s unexpected return there is actually more to than the work-related reason he keeps peddling to anyone who asks: while in Sweden, Doru received anonymous messages informing him of his wife’s alleged marital infidelity. Therefore, the true purpose of his return to Romania is to verify their authenticity.

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Like many of his compatriots (Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu), Costantinescu is able to create glacial and frozen atmospheres, where tensions swirl without erupting, if not at their very limit. This justifies the cold and aseptic tones of the cinematography, and the indoor shots with the clear aim of “imprisoning” the protagonists. Moreover, those scenes are built with sequence-plans in order to allow the viewer to pick every single word of what the characters say to each other. The risk of epigonism is avoided because the camera, like Doru, also breaks free from staticity and begins to peddle the characters generating a great deal of suspense, in full Hitchcockian style. While witnessing this “stalking” process, we end up putting together the pieces of the image of a country where patriarchal culture still takes hold, where the woman is not even allowed to go have a coffee without her husband’s approval, while the latter’s affairs and escapades are all but forbidden.

Through a withdrawn performance, Dumitrache is remarkably effective in capturing the grotesque dimension of the broken man. Sometimes he also manages to evoke laughter in the viewer – even in the context of domestic violence in which the film is set. Nevertheless, his partner Popii also shines with a great performance of glacial irony. However, any intended or unintended trace of humor disappears in the powerful finale: it dodges the mere consolation aim and seems to suggest that even in a society where everyone is cold, violent, distant (with or without COVID-19), mean, and obsessed with IKEA, one can always find something to hold on to. It is a struggle, but it can be done; even if you are a little bit of a man, and a little bit of a beast.


Article by: Irma Benedetto

Translated by: Alice Bettinelli

When approaching the work of Albert Serra, we cannot help but notice the great contradiction at the heart of his cinema: that between the setting of his images, which nestle in the past of the European history (from the 1980s of his debut film to the 1700s French – his favourite historical period – of La mort de Louis XIV and Liberté) and the sense of atrophy, of an absolute and out-of-time present that apocalyptically pervades his characters, always waiting for a climax that will never come, or that perhaps has already arrived.

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A spasmodic wait for the end that becomes nuclear paranoia for a Benoît Magimel called to play the ambiguous protagonist of Pacifiction, a diplomatic commissioner who has arrived in the former French colony of Tahiti to try to investigate unsettling rumours of an imminent resumption of dangerous atomic tests. Serra works on the extreme stylisation and opacity of the characters and on the exhibited artificiality of lights – as was already the case in the unforgettable finale of Liberté – to create a highly suggestive visual texture, a floating and uncertain space in which it is possible to perceive the abstraction of power in all its ruthless and pervasive senselessness. It is between half-voices and hints that the protagonist De Roller – designated intermediary between the politicians and the population – probes the island moving as if in a limbo – a somnambulist wandering in what seems to be an only-apparent state of life. The viewer is restrained in the hypnotic movement of the film, which concedes few clues and casts wide, unresolved grey areas, constantly moving to an unknowable off-screen that weights like an omen.

To duplicate and amplify the feeling of threat that travels under the skin, there is the eerie presence of the ocean, which with its surface engulfs and conceals. De Roller is driven by a desire for clarity that will never become tangible reality. In the most important dialogue-monologue of the film, the protagonist talks about a world that has lost the conception of time and memory, of a humanity that must have as its primary need that to illuminate, to see the withered skins of power that have already been embodied by the exposed and dying body of Jean-Pierre Léaud in La mort de Louis XIV. With Pacifiction, Serra continues his work on the perception of the present and the invisible decomposition of a frozen and motionless time, aiming his gaze for the first time at contemporaneity.

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Article by: Romeo Gjokaj

Translated by: Rita Brigante

When Mateo (Manel Llunell) is diagnosed with brain cancer, his mother Libertad (Ángela Molina) gets the chance she was looking for: Mateo is now harmless, in need of care and attention that only she can give him. Eduardo Casanova proposes an Oedipal love story with his second full-length-film “La piedad”, presented in competition at the 40th edition of Torino Film Festival.

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Mateo never leaves home without his mother, they sleep together in the same bed, and whenever one of them gets sick, both of them experience symptoms. Their personalities are blended to the point that they sometimes get swapped or one merges with the other; they laugh, cry, and suffer together. Mateo was born to satisfy his mother’s need to be essential for someone. What scares Libertad is the prospect that one day her son will grow up and be independent, take a bath on his own, and leave home. She wants him to stay in their little bubble in which she breastfeeds him and nurtures him forever, even though he is a grown man. The relationship between mother and son is compared with the parallel story set in North Korea, where dictator and subject cannot live without each other. Firstly, Mateo’s absent father plays the tyrant’s role, as he appears in Mateo’s dreams in the place of di Kim Jong-un while killing a unicorn, but the son will soon realize that the real cause of his discomfort his is mother.

As it is true with his first work, Skins (2017), Casanova is not scared of showing images that bring cinema back to pure visual art, building a voyeuristic relationship among the viewers that ask themselves whether they want to keep looking at the screen or not. The colour pink dominates the scene, exposing and dissecting the characters’ unspeakable secrets. They lose their humanity and become torn, sick pieces of flesh. The director is much interested in psychic anomalies rather than physical ones. Therefore, Casanova investigates the result of the combination of two psychic disorders: firstly, the Münchausen syndrome by proxy is the syndrome which leads Libertad to keep her son in a sickly stage by secretly drugging him, and secondly, the Stockholm syndrome that leads Mateo back to his tormentor, his mother. The son’s Oedipus complex, which makes him hate his father (whom he replaces) without even knowing him, contributes to the couple’s toxicity. Moreover, even though his mother is the cause of all his misfortunes, Mateo cannot survive without her, since he does not conceive anything except the morbid love that has accompanied him from birth.


Article by: Marco di Pasquale

Translated by: Noemi Zoppellaro

In recent years, documentary cinema has exploited animation for intimate and personal narratives capable of giving a fresh insight into complex historical events. Films such as Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008) or Samouni Road (Stefano Savona, 2018) discussed with a microscopic look events of enormous magnitude in an attempt to understand their profound nature. Through the memories of both his grandfather and father animated in stop motion, director Lei Lei retraces the difficult years of his family, divided by the Cultural Revolution in Maoist China.

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The structure of Silver Bird and Rainbow Fish effectively reflects the fragmented nature of historical memory. The animation, indeed, consists of hand-moulded plasticine, newspaper pages, old photographs and illustrations from the propaganda of the time, combined in a collage of different styles and languages. The images generated from this mixture are not just an artistic re-elaboration of what is narrated off-screen. The voices of the relatives interviewed by the director often linger, take long pauses or are interrupted as the memories become less clear. It is precisely in these moments of emptiness, of repressed memory, that the animation shows its evocative power, transcending the historical narrative through references to Chinese fantastic imagery and mythology.

Like the images, the narration is structured on several levels as well, in a temporal collage covering almost thirty years of History, through the voices and points of view of three generations: the director’s, his father’s, and his grandfather’s, interviewed ten years earlier. These overlapping temporal planes correspond to the various materials used in the documentary. If the plasticine moulded by Lei Lei’s hands represents contemporaneity and his imaginative, ironic and changing point of view, the photographs and newspaper clippings are the faded remains of a vanished world.

Throughout the film the author reminds us several times, in a variety of ways, that what we are seeing is but one of the endless possible visions of what happened, filtered by the experiences of the various members of the family and the director himself, who imagined the events with his artistic sensibility and a contemporary eye. It’s impossible to restore a complete image of the past, but it is for this very reason that small stories like that of the Lei family are so important and worthy of being told.


Article by: Alessandro Pomati

Translation by: Ana Paula Da Silva Costa

The Philippines, 1973. The Monzon family, one of the country’s most prominent industrial dynasties, is facing a dramatic transition. Their elderly patriarch, Servando Monzon III, is dying from pancreatic cancer and his heir, his grandson Servando VI, is tasked with running the family sugar plantations under Fernando Marcos bloody repressive regime. Their destiny will eventually cross that of a young serial murderer sentenced to death.

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Lav Diaz’s intention seems clear right from the opening credits: to make, as he himself states, a “novel-film” from the family saga of the same name by Filipino author Ricardo Lee.

Presented out of competition at the 79th annual Venice International Film Festival, the film takes up many literary topoi: the high-ranking lineage of the family that is centrepiece of the story, a historical background more or less influencing the choices of the protagonists, a tormented love between members of different classes and family secrets that will be revealed as the narrative goes on. Diaz elaborates all this through a style that has made him popular among film buffs all over the world over: black and white photography, fixed shots, and dilated time frames.

Yet, for the most part, it is the story rather than the way in which it is told that dominates the scene. A tale of ‘Filipino violence’ indeed, focusing on the bloody events in which the Monzons played a role over the centuries, and that do not seem to find an end. Diaz’s direction, although immediately recognisable, is almost invisible as it is put at the service of the story, its linearity, the melodramatic tone of the events embodied by characters and density of happenings.

However, in certain moments – ‘few’, actually, considering its seven hours of duration – the personality of the director emerges in silent, intimate, and nocturnal contemplative moments, poetic, fresh and almost unrelated to the narration, but above all in his attention to the history of his own country, the true protagonist. Through what at first glance would appear to be post-production oversights, such as sudden dips and rises in the audio, out-of-sync, rustling microphones on clothes, Diaz gives substance to the cracks in history letting them creep in amidst the rigorous images. And it is precisely these ‘out-of-tune’ sounds that make of this film an echo of the true lives of those men and women who inspired this tale.


Article by: Marco di Pasquale

Translated by: Arianna Deiro

The dystopian narrative, which became popular in 20th century literature and cinema, has always been an effective tool to analyse and discuss contemporary society’s problems and changes. Alberto Mascia, with his movie Ipersonnia, takes the topics which in the past years have generated intense debates in Italy and puts them in a near future. The high crime rate and the severe overcrowding in Italian prisons have pushed politicians towards an extreme solution: turning prison sentences into years of forced sleep.

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David Damiani (Stefano Accorsi) is a psychologist whose job consists in periodically waking up inmates to monitor their mental health. The forced sleep takes a toll especially on the convicts’ brain, as they find it hard to distinguish dream from reality. Ipersonnia is based on such dichotomy and the movie’s atmosphere draws inspiration from films such as eXistenz (Cronenberg – 1999) or Memento (Nolan – 2000). The dreamlike element directly correlates to psychoanalysis and its immoral use combined with technology. Due to a brainwave inhibitor, the inmate is vulnerable while the psychologist can insert all kind of ideas in his mind, even potentially convincing him of being guilty of crimes he did not commit. Therefore, Ipersonnia presents a new and interesting interpretation of the “transplants” of ideas carried out by the protagonists of Inception (Nolan – 2010). While in Nolan’s movie the manipulation only took place in the dreamlike worlds created by people’s minds, in Ipersonnia the process happens while they are awake, through psychanalysis. Technological advance, combined with psychotherapy, allows for the destruction of all the barriers of the unconscious and sleep simply becomes a moment of stasis and imprisonment. Despite all the thematical and narrative suggestions, the style of the director remains inert, in function of a simpler understanding of the events of the film.

Prison overcrowding, justice and its problematic implementation are important issues of our society that are hinted at by the film, but are relegated to the background. The narrative turns mostly to conspiracy theories and to the deterioration of the power which is trying to take control of the citizen’s minds. Ipersonnia is part of the recent attempt by Italian productions to make the public interested in genre film once again. Such attempt is perhaps lacklustre in its comparison with dystopia, which would require a critical and in-depth analysis of such current and relevant issues, both in its content and in its form.


Article by: Fabio Bertolotto

Translated by: Laura Todeschini

‘Dear Anna, this is not the first time I have addressed you in this way’. It is with these words that Bertrand Bonello’s latest film begins. Words which pave the way to an open letter full of love and sensitivity addressed to his teenage daughter. The director had already tried to communicate with the girl through the cinema with Nocturama (2016). Some images of this film appear at the beginning of Coma in a confused montage that turns the frames into pure abstraction. The previous effort to get in touch with his daughter had been unsuccessful, since she had not seen the film. For this reason, Bonello tries again, making a more intimate, personal and, at the same time, universal work that addresses his daughter and also new generations.

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