Two by Nanni Moretti

Nanni Moretti is the director of many award winning films, including The Son’s Room for which he garnered the most prestigious award, the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. Other of his films have been in competition for the Palme d’Or, and have won several other awards at Cannes, as well as many David di Donatello awards, one of the most sought after film award in Italy. He is also an acclaimed actor, with leading roles in quite a few of his own movies, as well as in those by other superb directors. For those of you who have been following this blog, you may remember him as the brother of Marguerita Buy, in the extraordinary film, Mia Madre (post #2), which he both starred in and directed.

Moretti is an extremely versatile director and actor, and his artistry is highlighted in both of the movies recommended in this post. He had a longtime interest in writing a script about and acting the role of a psychoanalyst, and he fulfilled that desire with both the films in this post. Like other Italian directors such as Silvio Soldini (Pane e Tulipani – Bread and Tulips, post #9), he often draws on the talents of favorite actors, in this case Marguerita Buy (you will recognize her as his estranged wife in We Have a Pope), but also his own father, Luigi, who appears in six of his films in minor roles, and Laura Morante (The Son’s Room). Though thoroughly Italian in nature, many of his films are Italian/French co-productions, as are these two. Both can be found on DVD with your CLAMS library card.

We Have a Pope (Habemus Papam) 2011

We Have a Pope is an outstanding and entertaining film. Because it’s “comedy/drama,” there’s a great deal of room for Moretti to draw on his versatility as an actor and director (as well as on his skills as an athlete), at the same time making a very funny and richly poignant movie. The pope has died, and the College of Cardinals must elect a new pope. That is the simple premise of the story. It gets complicated when Cardinal Melville (brilliant and subtle actor Michel Piccoli) is chosen on a second vote to be Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. To the dismay and horror of the Cardinals, he has a massive panic attack and is unable to appear on the balcony to greet the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. World-wide news media is on high alert since this unprecedented event means that no one is able to find out who has actually been elected to the papacy. 

Nanni Moretti plays the famous psychoanalyst who is commandeered by the top Vatican staffer to interview Melville and set things straight. Meanwhile, the Vatican is on lockdown until the crisis can be resolved. How Cardinal Melville escapes and spends a couple of days traveling incognito in the Eternal City while struggling with his indecision is both touching and funny. I found it so interesting to read that Nanni Moretti at one time said this about his own personal beliefs: “I remember the shirts that said ‘Thank God I’m an atheist.’ Funny. But I do not think so. I’m not a believer and I’m sorry.” And I think that is why he tells this story with such grace, humor, and respect.

The Son’s room (La Stanza del Figlio) 2001

Giovanni Sermonti (Moretti) is a remarkably compassionate psychoanalyst with a successful practice in the seaport city of Ancona, a splendid setting on the Adriatic Coast. He is devoted to his close knit family: lovely wife Paola (Laura Morante), teenage daughter Irene (Jasmine Trinca), and teenage son Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice). He never misses his daughter’s basketball games, and has long runs with his son. Everything is going very well in Giovanni’s  life. There are problems to be dealt with, of course; his son and a friend as a prank steal a valuable ammonite from the school’s science lab, and intend to quickly return it, but in the interim it is accidentally destroyed. In spite of his impulsive act, Andrea really is a decent and appealing young man, and so full of life. 

It’s not long before everything falls apart for the Sermonti family. Andrea has an accident scuba diving with friends, and drowns. The heart of the movie is a painful and extremely realistic portrait of how deep the grief goes for this family, as it does for any family experiencing the loss of a beloved child. Giovanni loses his compassion for his patients, whose sorrows seem so small compared to his own, and he decides to give up his practice. Paola spends hours and days sobbing on their bed. Irene begins to get in fights on the basketball court. In the ensuing weeks, all three make visits independently to Andrea’s room. When Paola finds love letters in her son’s room from Arianna, a girl he met at summer camp, she realizes that Arianna is unaware Andrea has died. Paola’s decision to phone this young girl loved by her son, is the first step in turning the tide for the grief-stricken family.

The captivating Jasmine Trinca, only twenty years old at the time, was chosen by Nanni Moretti for her first role, a major one, and in a movie which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Her acting is always remarkable, and she is fresh and real as the teenage daughter of the Sermonti family. For followers of this blog, I hope you saw her in her mid-thirties as the neurotic daughter of the aristocratic soon-to-be groom in the recent comedy An Almost Ordinary Summer, (post #6). Also look for her as the lead in Miele, an impressive movie, though rather dark, which you can find on Kanopy or through CLAMS.

To check out more of Khristine’s Italian movie recommendations, check out Un Progetto Speciale – Part 11!