Films by Francesca Comencini, Joachim Trier, Col Spector: Making Connections By Dimitri Kalantidis

in 20th Athens Panorama of European Cinema

by Dimitri Kalantidis

Francesca Comencini has directed a lot of films since 1984 when she made her first film, Pianoforte. The title of her last film, Our Country (A Casa Nostra), has two meanings in the Italian language: “in our house” and “in our home” (country). By giving that title to her film, Comencini intends to imply an interweaving of the personal and the social.

The lives of different people are interlaced in Milan, the city of big capital and of intense economic and social inequalities. Big capitalists are ruthless, speculators, the engineers of human disaster.

The main characters of the film are the banker Ugo (Luca Zingaretti) and the Financial Police inspector Rita (Valeria Golino), whose office is wiretapping Ugo. She is determined to bring down the corrupt banker. There is also the story of the relationship of the model Elodie (Laura Chiatti), Ugo’s mistress, with a man to whom Rita is related, and the story of the relationship of good-hearted ex-convict Otello (Giuseppe Battiston) with a pregnant whore from an Eastern Europe country — whose baby Ugo tries to purchase for his childless wife.

Through the prism of money, Comencini’s film examines the themes of power, corruption, justice and lack of love. Although there is a lack of character development, due to the many stories and characters, Comencini’s direction is dynamic.

Reprise, Joachim Trier’s first film, was awarded with the Prize for the Best Film at the 2007 Istanbul International Film Festival and the Prize for Best Director at the 2006 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Radical in its narration and cinematic expression, Trier’s film deals with the difficulty of human contact and communication in an alienated society presenting the daily life of two friends.

The film’s young leads, Phillip (Anders Danielsen Lie) and Erik (Espen Klouman Høiner), grew up sharing a passion for literature. Influenced by the novelist Sten Egil Dahl (Sigmund Sæverud), both dreamt of becoming writers one day, and completed their first novels in their early 20s. But while Phillip’s book was accepted by a major publisher and became a best-seller, Erik’s book earned a sheaf of rejection slips. However, Phillip’s celebrity lifestyle and his obsessive relationship with his girlfriend Kari (Victoria Winge) drive him to a nervous breakdown. After Phillip’s stay in a mental hospital, Erik tries to resume his relationship with his girlfriend, Lillian (Silje Hagen) and his friendship with Phillip.

The formalistic writing of the film is on a razor’s edge in relation to the events it depicts. Reprise requires the spectator’s vigilance: Through the quick fire editing, the flashbacks, the dynamic use of space, the poetic writing generally, Trier approaches his themes: the romanticism of young people, friendship, difficulties in relationships, the proximity between madness and creativity.

Someone Else, Col Spector’s first feature film, was chosen by “Variety” as the best British film made by a young director. Approaching his film with sensibility, humor and irony, Spector examines the difficulties in male-female relationships, both before and after marriage, focusing mainly on the emotional world and attitude of men.

David (Stephen Mangan, from the British cult TV series Green Wing), the central character of the film, is a portrait photographer (the scene of his photographing an aged couple is delightful), who is seeing two women at the same time: Lisa (Susan Lynch), with whom he’s had a three-year relationship, and Nina (Lara Belmont), an attractive, impressive woman who charms David and rouses him emotionally. Ultimately, David dumps Lisa in order to be with Nina. But things do not unfold as David had expected: His new girlfriend admits that she has already moved on and is not really interested in David anymore. So David sets out to win his embittered ex back, by any means necessary. Direct and simple narration, witty dialogues, fresh acting.