LA Film Fest – Bellocchio’s meditation on life, love and politics

The women of Dormant Beauty. From left, Maya Sansa, Isabelle Huppert, Alba Rohrwacher

The women of Dormant Beauty. From left, Maya Sansa, Isabelle Huppert, Alba Rohrwacher

 

Ethics, politics, family, religion, public and private life: all these aspects of life are questioned by one main “motif”, the right to die. Once again Italian director Marco Bellocchio chose a difficult subject for his film, and brought it to the big screen with Dormant Beauty (Bella Addormentata), presented at the last Venice Film Festival and now featured as the only new Italian selection at the LA Film Fest.
 
Inspired by the story of Eluana Englaro, in permanent vegetative state for over 16 years before his father was legally allowed to interrupt her medically supplied nutrition and hydration, Dormant Beauty was expected to rouse strong reactions. But that never happened. It must be because of Bellocchio’s attempt not to take part and to represent, instead, different opinions. A safe choice for some, a brave one for others.
 
“I’ve been waiting several years to make this movie because I thought that the emotion of those days could have influenced my approach”, said the director at the Venice Film Festival, referring to the last days of Eluana Englaro. “My intention wasn’t to support a thesis [...] even though I think the film reveals my opinion. I’m not expecting it to spur hysterical reactions” he continued, “but questions”.
 
And so it was. Bellocchio tries to give voice to different individuals, showing the contradictions of a very delicate issue, and he does it with a remarkable cast, which includes some of the best actors active in the Italian panorama: Toni Servillo, Alba Rohrwacher , Maya Sansa, Michele Riondino and Gian Marco Tognazzi, as well as a terrific Isabelle Huppert.
 
There’s a divided politician called to vote for a law he doesn’t sympathize with, and there’s his daughter who joins a pro-life movement; there’s a doctor who watches over a drug addicted patients who wants to die; and there’s a mother, ex-actress, who has abandoned her husband and son to take care of her daughter, in a coma for years. There are a few ingenuities in some scenes and dialogues, but even touching and straight-to-the-point moments. The world Bellocchio represents is maybe a little too “bourgeois”, but it succeeds in showing how it is not only patient’s life (or what is left of it) that is at stake, but also the life of all those around him.
 
Let’s wait for the post-LAFF critics to see what the American audience has to say.
 

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