Monday, 14 February 2011

The Films of Nanni Moretti

I became acquainted with the films of Nanni Moretti about ten years ago, through La Stanza del Figlio (The Son's Room): a clear-eyed, minimalist piece on random loss and the illusion of control, grief and the coming to terms with it. I noticed how Moretti told his story using a series of sharp vignettes that built on each other to bring about a complex effect. The comfortable lifestyle of the family in question made an impression, as did the lightness and airiness in the atmosphere, which I put down to geographical location.

I have since watched several more of Moretti's films, in random chronological order, the most recent being Aprile, from 1998. His commitment to the political left - completely absent from The Son's Room, which seems more and more like an anomaly within his oeuvre - is abundantly clear, as is his deep concern with life in Italy and the country's international standing. The failure of the Italian left is a constant motif, with his opposition to the premiership of Silvio Berlusconi - see in particular 2006's Il Caimano - indicative of his sentiments. All this is constantly juxtaposed with apparent events from his own life and his love of image and documentary filmmaking. Movement is also an important element - his Vespa is a vehicle for all sorts of shifts and freedoms - as is intellectual discourse, and humour. But two things have struck me the most: an air of self-depreciation, a slight sense of the ridiculous which he assigns to the character "Nanni" played by himself, constantly dealing with failure at something or other but crucially not giving up, finding a way to carry on; and the superficial disparity between his leftist ideology and polemics and the rather comfortable circumstances of his characters.

Is this a comment on hypocricy? Or does the richness of the mediterranean climate afford - at least on the surface - the people depicted in his films an easier mode of living? A soft humanity in his characters shines through, a closeness between them that rarely appears suffocating and a gentleness in the way they correspond with each other despite differences of opinion or personality: all these radiate a sense of well-being generally absent from the harsher climates of northern Europe. Is this a trick of cinema, part of the unending game played by memory, or simply a nostalgia for a disappeared (or never there in the first place) set of life rules?

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