The Wonders (2014)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  Le Meraviglie

Italy/Switzerland/Germany, 2014Tempesta, Amka Films Productions, Rai Cinema, Pola Pandora Filmproduktions, RSI-Radiotelevisione Svizzera, SRG SSR idée suisse, ZDF/Das kleine Fernsehspiel, Arte, Dipartimento Federale dell’Interno, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Cineteca del Comune di Bologna, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Regione Toscana, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali.  Screenplay by Alice Rohrwacher.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

A family of Tuscan honey producers live a life of routine and hard work, lorded over by their gruff father who relies most on his eldest daughter Gelsomina to keep things running smoothly.  A young teenager, she’s the eldest of four girls who take part in the family business, the rest of the time wandering the barren, dry landscape or witnessing the friction between adults in the house that are constantly playing out in a smattering of Italian, French and German arguments.  Change comes with the appearance of a television celebrity (a delightful ) and her camera crew whose reality TV show is hosting a local contest in which a giant cash prize is handed to the agricultural locals who represent the Most Traditional Family.  Gelsomina’s father objects, partly because he has no time for fun and games and partly because he has enough to deal with: new regulations on their business could lead to trouble for them, and a young German boy who is there as part of his sentencing to juvenile detention is interrupting their daily life.  The clashes between these personalities make up much of Alice Rohrwacher’s startlingly fresh film, a combination of Visconti’s rural dramas and Fellini’s neorealism on the fringes of fantasy (right down to the naming of the main character in La Strada).  The power dynamics between genders and generations are enhanced by visual extravagances, gently poking fun at a culture whose self-image (the television contest ties their agricultural wonders to their ancient Etruscan heritage) is not quite in line with its practical reality (something Reality attempted and never managed), the whole thing bewitching and beautiful without ever being crass or judgmental.

Cannes Film Festival Award:  Grand Jury Prize

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