La Sapienza, directed by Eugène Green, is the work of a filmmaker at the peak of his talents. The story follows Alexandre, a French architect, disillusioned with the concessions he makes for professional success. Following a dispute over a planned housing project, and a domestic conflict with his wife, he sets off for Rome to study the work of Borromini, a 17th century high baroque architect. Along the way, he and his wife encounter a pair of Italian-Swiss siblings in Ticino, birthplace of Borromini, complicating their plans and driving a strange and digressive plot.
Sunday, April 12, 11:10am
Thursday, April 16, 4:30pm
Director: Eugène Green
Producers: Alessandro Borrelli, Martine de Clermont-Tonnerre
Writer: Eugène Green
Cinematographer: Raphael O'Byrne
Editor: Valérie Loiseleux
Cast: Fabrizio Rongione, Christelle Prot, Ludovico Succio, Arianna Nastro, Hervé Compagne, Sabine Ponte
Premiere: August 8, 2014 - Lacarno Film Festival
The film is best as it pans over the cathedrals of Ticino and Rome and Alexandre opines on the rivalry of Bernini and Borromini, highlighting the methods and impulses of these two Baroque rivals.
Things become more vague as the characters interact with these ideas. The apparent messaging, a sort of cornball humanism founded in light and the encounter with higher power, is deferred by consistent and very funny deadpan. Would be moments of revelation are subverted by the intrusion of pseudoserious allegorical characters (a Chaldean Christian an Australian pilgrim). Green is unrelenting in his parody of intellectualism and what Gert Jonke described as “the people variously involved in the further development of intellectual life.” He skewers a group of post-docs in residence in a very Dolce Vita sequence.
Furthermore, an air of detachment surrounds each character. In each frame, the actors address the camera straight on, as if speaking to the audience. This is a great stultifying effect, recalling that Brechtian move towards alienation, as if the actor were simply reading lines, unbelieving them. (Think of Marilyn Monroe describing her dream in Some Like it Hot, her eyes tracing along a cue card). The result is strange and ambivalent. The otherworldly beauty of the settings, combined with landscapes people only with characters, results in something like a grand experiment in form. This is a strange and funny trip, curated by a filmmaker at the top of his talent.