Thursday, June 12, 2014

Corpo celeste (in the presence of Alice Rohrwacher)

Yle Vianello as Marta, about to take her confirmation.
IT/CH/FR 2011
D: Alice Rohrwacher
SC: Alice Rohrwacher
DP: Hélène Louvart
ED: Marco Spoletini
AD: Luca Servino
Cost: Loredana Buscemi
S: Daniela Bassani, Cristiano Ciccone, Marzia Cordò, Riccardo Studer
M: Piero Crucitti
C: Salvatore Cantalupo, Anita Caprioli, Renato Carpentieri, Paola Lavini, Pasqualina Scuncia, Yle Vianello
PC: Amka Films Productions, JBA Production, Tempesta
P: Carlo Cresto-Dina
Print: Rai Trade
Esitysformaatti: DCP announced, 35 mm screened
Language: Italian
Subtitles: English
100 min
    Shot on Super 16 mm. Digital intermediate: Deluxe Digital. C: Yle Vianello (Marta), Salvatore Cantalupo (Don Mario), Pasqualina Scunca (Santa), Anita Caprioli (Rita), Renato Carpentieri (Don Lorenzo).
    Rai Trade 35 mm print with English subtitles by Charlotte Lantery viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Midnight Sun Film Festival, in the presence of Alice Rohrwacher, 12 June 2014

Timo Malmi in the Midnight Sun Film Festival 2014 Catalogue: "It is interesting to compare Alice Rohrwacher’s debut feature film Corpo celeste to Love Like Poison by Katell Quillévéré, another director guest of ours, or maybe to the films dealing with religion by Marco Bellocchio, our Italian guest from last year. They may contain the same kind of dark humour, but perhaps more melodrama, at least in the early works."

"In its slightly dreamlike quality, Rohrwacher’s directional work moves within the forever-interesting area of fiction and documentarism, somewhat in the spirit of cinema vérité. Just like in Love Like Poison, the main character of Corpo celeste is a teenage girl: the 13-year-old Maria who, too, prepares for Confirmation in a remote location in the poor region of Calabria in Southern Italy, where the influence of the Catholic Church lingers as strong as in the French film by Quillévéré. Marta, too, feels like an outsider: she has grown up in a proletarian family in Switzerland – now she has moved to a new area with her sympathetic mother, a jealous big sister, and a little brother."

"Fairly independent for a pubescent girl, Maria searches for her place in the world, continually colliding against the hypocrisy of the grown-ups and the Church. The local priest, the dubious and manipulative Father Mario, is more interested in his career and political activities than in the confirmation school students."

"Hélène Louvart has shot the impressive Corpo celeste (“Celestial Body”) with a Super 16 mm camera and a style serving mundane realism with a direct “gut feeling”, thus moving respectfully along on the trail of the Dardenne brothers (in Sodankylä in 2005). Yle Vianello amazes with her persuasive performance in this intimate coming-of-age story as the young Marta, whose own internal search seems inconsistent with the phony Church and the general atmosphere of the village where people are engaged in the preparation of a visit by the bishop." (TM)

A sensitive account of the 13 year old Marta's passage from childhood towards young womanhood. The film title Corpo celeste, refers to Jesus Christ, the spiritual body, juxtaposed with Marta's physical body undergoing fundamental changes.

It is a story of Weltschmerz. Besides her early teenage angst, Marta is also experiencing a cultural shock, the family having returned from a ten year stay in Switzerland to Southern Italy.

The narrative is about Marta's visiting the confirmation class. She is a hopeless student. Yet gradually we realize that she has interiorized values essential to Christianity.

In a key sequence she is following Don Mario to an abandoned mountain village where they will rescue a lifesize crucifix needed for the confirmation ceremony. The only inhabitant is a hermit priest with whom Marta establishes a connection. As Marta cleans tenderly the dirty crucifix it is an image of her getting closer to Christ, and also closer to the idea of the physical male. Marta is obsessed with the sentence "Eli Eli, lama sabachthani?" ("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?").

On the steep mountain road the crucifix swings loose and falls deep down to the Mediterranean Sea.

Alice Rohrwacher directs her film in the realistic mode. She thinks in images. The images are memorable yet unobtrusive.

A central image is water / the ocean / the fish. Mother has ceased to buy Mediterranean fish because of the number of corpses of refugees rotting there. The kittens of the parish are drowned in the sea. Also the crucifix lands there. Marta finally takes her real baptism by wading to the sea next to the garbage dump in her white confirmation dress.

The film is full of interesting observations of the contemporary reality of the church. It would be wrong to call the observations satirical. We smile at the pop approach to religious music, the blatant contradiction between the lessons taught and the actual behavior (Marta is slapped: credo!), the attraction of Santa to Don Mario, and Don Mario's suffering looks at the everyday incidents as he desires to be promoted. Despite all these mundane concerns there is a sense of true spirituality and religious community.

The 16 mm cinematography is close to life, and the camera is often subjective. Because I have seen too many films shot with a handheld camera I find that handheld cinematography can seem artificial.

After the screening Alice Rohrwacher was interviewed by Satu Kyösola. Rohrwacher told that Yle Vianello was discovered in a hippie community; she talked Italian without an accent, and she had never been in a city before. - Rohrwacher likes to start a film with lights emerging in the dark. - With Pasolini Rohrwacher shares a sense of respect to the body, with the insight that the body is a temple. - The shooting was conducted with no hidden camera, instead with the attitude of "we are here", the camera on the shoulder. We take responsibility, we breathe, we were there. - Everything is organically connected: the acting, the clothes, the story, the camera. Everything is interconnected. - Simbolo = union, diavolo = separation. Symbols emerge from the ground, like in Out of Africa, the story of the stork.

The passage of the Bible shown to Marta by the hermit priest:

Mark 3
Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

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