|Marco Bellocchio (left) at the Walter Reade Theater|
Photo credit: Joshua Handler
2013, 115 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
This film was shown as part of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2013 festival being held through the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The festival will be held through June 12 and tickets can be purchased here.
Dormant Beauty is the new film from famed Italian director Marco Bellocchio (Vincere). It takes place in 2009 when the right-to-die case of Eluana Englaro was being debated in Italy. The film follows three stories revolving around people in comas, but squanders many opportunities.
The most glaring fault of the film is the extremely uneven pace. At the beginning of the film, there is constant cutting between the story lines, making it hard to follow, but never boring. It is very graceful, almost like a ballet. Then, as the film nears the middle portion, it slows down, exploring the three stories. However, no story is explored as deeply as I would have liked because there are two others to focus on. Each story is interesting in its own right and they very well could have sustained three separate, better films. In addition, for the last 2/3 of the movie, there are some sections that focus heavily on one story, then cut to a shorter portion of another story, then back to a long portion of another story, making the pacing uneven and weakening the other stories.
With this film, there are some interesting and certainly provocative questions asked, but the pace of the film is so languid and the passion so seemingly lacking that it is difficult to get into the film. It is also distracting trying to follow so many characters in the stories making it hard to think about what is being presented onscreen. This is such a shame because this film has so much potential and I would have loved to think more about it than I did. The frequentlymelodramatic music never helps either. It cheapens the drama onscreen and attempts to give it the spark that it lacks.
On the good side, the cinematography by Daniele Ciprì is magnificent and so are the performances. Each and every performance is really strong. The famed French actress Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher, Amour) appears in the film and is powerful as always. She is underutilized in her segment which is too bad because she is one of the most expressive and talented actresses working today.
Overall, Dormant Beauty is a missed opportunity. It has a great base, a talented cast and director, but never reaches its full potential. I would have loved everything to be more fleshed out and to be a little more evenly paced. The slow segments are way too slow, and the fast segments are way too fast. There is no happy median.