Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Italy/France, 2012. Cattleya, Babe Film, Rai Cinema, La Banque Postale Images 5, Sofica Manon 2, Friuli Venezia Giulia Film Commission. Story by Marco Bellocchio, Screenplay by Marco Bellocchio, Veronica Raimo, Stefano Rulli. Cinematography by Daniele Cipri. Produced by Marco Chimenz, Giovanni Stabilini, Riccardo Tozzi. Music by Carlo Crivelli. Production Design by Marco Dentici. Costume Design by Sergio Ballo. Film Editing by Francesca Calvelli. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
The true case of Eluana Englaro inspires a three-pronged tale in this richly enjoyable melodrama by Marco Bellocchio. Englaro was a young woman whose parents decided to take her off life support after she had been in a coma for seventeen years, sparking a firestorm of controversy around the country about the morality of the situation and what the government should do to intervene. Involved in this story are a senator (a compellingly pensive Toni Servillo) waiting to vote on a resolution to push through a bill preventing the possibility of purposely ending the girl’s life, while his conservative daughter (Alba Rohrwacher) keeps vigil outside the hospital in the belief that the girl should be kept alive. Her views are challenged when she enjoys a whirlwind romance with a protestor on the other side of the fence who hates her religious dogmatism. Meanwhile, a doctor inside the hospital admits a junkie (Maya Sansa) and gets to know her over the course of an evening. Across town, a famous French actress (Isabelle Huppert) keeps at the bedside of her comatose daughter after having given up her career in order to await the day that she will awaken again. This is frustrating for her son, who believes she is wasting her life and is considering desperate measures to right the situation. All three of these narratives are highly absorbing, even though the doctor-patient storyline doesn’t quite bear as much of a connection with the theme as the other two do (or, at least, the explanation for its connection is much more cerebral than the others). It’s a feast of emotions and emotional explosions, with superb performances (especially a rock-solid Sansa and a grounded Huppert) combining with colourful photography and a rousing musical score to make for something impressively easy to sit through despite the subject matter.