Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
Original title: Il Giovane Favoloso
Italy, 2014. Palomar, Rai Cinema, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Regione Marche, Marche Film Commission, Fondazione Marche Cinema Multimedia, Regione Lazio. Screenplay by Mario Martone, Ippolita Di Majo. Cinematography by Renato Berta. Produced by Carlo Degli Esposti, Nicola Serra. Music by Sascha Ring. Production Design by Giancarlo Muselli. Costume Design by Ursula Patzak. Film Editing by Jacopo Quadri. Toronto International Film Festival 2014. Venice Film Festival 2014.
One of Italy’s most celebrated poets is given a bloated biopic in this dull film, describing but barely exploring the life of Giacomo Leopardi. He was raised the eldest son of early nineteenth-century aristocrats whose overly protective father and wrought-iron mother kept him and his siblings confined to their home for the majority of their lives. Giacomo in particular suffers ill health that is not helped by his days and nights of constant study, but what his introspective and studious nature does provide him with is the opportunity to write verses that, once they reach experienced ears, make him celebrated by authorities as a writer of note. A beautiful sense for the period is mitigated by cheap-looking digital photography, but what really flattens the experience is the hands-off, fully reverential treatment of the character that veers towards hagiography. Leopardi is a martyr to everyone, to his father, his society and his body, and as a result he is neither interesting nor his story compelling. Elio Germano‘s performance in the lead does a great job of fighting this simplicity, a delicate and nuanced turn from an actor who can always be counted on to bewitch the viewer with his soulful eyes and soft smile, but his director is too afraid to muddy up the iconic image of a celebrated national artist and venerated philosopher to really let him shine.