COUNTRY:                     Italy 1999
MUSIC:                           Ludovico Einaudi
CAST:                             Margherita Buy, Silvio Orlando, Carolina Freschi, Maria Cristina Minerva, Sonia Gessner, Alessandro Di Natale, Marina Massironi
SUPER FEATURES:       Story and its handling

(seen at the Portland International Film Festival)

This is reminiscent of a Spanish film also seen at this Film Festival a couple of years ago. "The Cradle Song". But the similarity ends there.

The story in this film is rather interesting, and told with a certain amount of dry wit that is difficult to get into, but eventually allows us a laugh here and there. The subtleties are not quite obvious, until later, when at a Bingo game, it becomes apparent what this film is really trying to accomplish.

On a day when Sister Caterina is going to visit her own mother, we find that she is handed a baby in a sweater. She does not know what to do, but she takes it to the Hospital and then the story really starts. She begins getting attached to the child. In the meantime, we come to see a two other dysfunctional families. In one, a daughter is leaving home, and apparently has been hiding -- the pregnancy and the baby she gave away. In the other, Caterina's mother is upset that Caterina took on the vows of a nun. Well, there is a third dysfunctional family. Ernesto's little laundry business has several girls working for him, and his attitude is less than helpful at times.

Sister Caterina's only clue is a sweater that is given back to her by the Hospital and she undertakes to go find its owner. It leads her to this small laundry business. When Ernesto finds out he may have a child the film begins its run. Sister Caterina is trying to find the mother of the child, and now Ernesto is interested because he might actually be the father. In the end, things get back to a semblance of normalcy, and as usual, the status quo lives on, and those involved are distant from these things, with the exception of the two parents that get to adopt this child. It's in between these cracks that this film shines. Not as well done as "The Cradle Song", but no less  effective.

Like the other film, this one spares no second thought about the coolness and the viciousness of the church and its lack of respect for people themselves, in lieu of their own order of things ... indeed, not of this world at all, and the reason for the title. In between lie the emotions of the young Caterina seeing things happen in her face that bring her to question her own motives and ideas to herself. What is unusual in the end, is that she does not renounce her rights, and affirms them even better, or stronger. One can only hope that she will not have the cold heart of the Mother Superior, who is not convinced that Caterina is made for the order, as she has taken this affair with a maternal instinct, which the order obviously wants to take out of all its nuns. A caring heart, means you can not be motherly affectionate, or get involved in these things with a human heart. A very serious theme and charge in general, which 30 years ago would have had this film "banned" by many authorities, in ways similar to the works of Luis Bunuel, the style of which this film is not reminiscent of, but the spirit of the film and way it is delivered, which it is.

Ernesto himself is a loner, and in many ways is a Bunuel'ian hero. He does not have disdain for the women, but he has obviously been hurt enough that his aloofness is an issue with women, with the exception of Sister Caterina, to whom he has taken a serious liking (another Bunuel'ian subtlety), but probably knows that it is impossible. he gets to witness Caterina's last battles with herself, on her way to become a full fledged nun. But when watching the atrocities of human behavior and ideas in action, she does the one thing that we really don't want her to do. She leaves "this world".

One really wants this film to turn around, I did. It isn't that I think that compassion should always win over ideas and a commitment that may be idealistic or futile in the end, but there are a lot of people in those areas, whose heart is not in question, and they belong there. Ernesto's indifference at the start, and his slowness into coming around, is in a way, very similar to Caterina's doubts.

A film that has its fine moments, with two very fine leads in Margherita Buy and Silvio Orlando, while not a stunningly well done film, it makes up for it in spunk and doing. It plods along well, is well written, and though one may find the end disappointing, it never the less makes it ok. We still have a baby and an Ernesto to keep track of, I guess.

3.5 of 5 GIBLOONS




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