A Funny and Joyful Rebellion

in Flying Broom International Women's Film Festival

by Britt Sørensen

Untold stories come to screen in this playful, well-directed, and universal film, held up by strong performances from the leading actresses.

Galatéa Bellugi stars as Teresa, a young and apparently mute servant girl working on an orphanage run by a religious institute near Venice, Sant’Ignazio, in the Baroque era around 1800. The abandoned or orphaned girls are the same age as Teresa, but they are all taught to sing or play instruments, forming an orchestra playing music composed by the priest, Perlina (Paolo Rossi). Teresa is bossed around, by Perlina and the other women, especially Lucia (Carlotta Gamba), the first violin in the orchestra. But Teresa’s head and body are full of music, depicted in an electrifying and astonishing scene in the opening of the film, where the daily tasks of the other working women come together in a beautifully choreographed and played symphony—a scene that also gives a hint about the freedom of artistic expression this period drama is going to embody.

When the Pope announces a visit to the congregation, Perlina tries to compose a new piece, but suffers from writer’s block. Lucia, also a skilled composer, tries to convince him to use one of her compositions. He declines.

At the same time a modern piano is donated to the female musicians, but stowed away in a spare room by the priest. Teresa discovers it, and also discovers her natural talent for playing the instrument.

In her directorial debut, actress-singer-composer Vicario leans on some elements from the commedia all’italia tradition. The result is a perfect, charming, and playful balance between melodrama, cinematic clichés, humor, anger, and some well-done contrafact pieces that also incorporate historical facts. When Teresa plays the piano, it’s with a jazzy tone and a style that resembles some of Keith Jarrett’s improvisations. Her music fascinates the women in the orchestra, except for Lucia, feeling her own compositions threatened. But slowly, cooperation and fondness evolves.

Notably, both of Teresa’s pieces, and the contemporary baroque, are composed by Vicario and her collaboration partner, Davide Pavanello.

As the Pope’s visit approaches, the women lay a plan. It unfolds in a masterful, chaotic, uplifting and seriously funny concert that also shows how rebellion can unfold and be equally mixed with anger, humor, joy, and an uplifting and brave stubbornness that embraces self-awareness and solidarity.

Beautiful shot by Gianluca Palma, Gloria! stands out as cinematic delight. Palma uses natural light and candlelight to create a warm palette. The era’s clothes, furniture, and worn interiors, as well as the women’s gradually close relationship, create visually breathtaking images. At the same time, and even better, its audiovisual blend is winsome and highly appealing.

Gloria! manages to be both a fresh and entertaining crowd-pleaser and an artistic, cinematically uncompromising, and confident film, telling a story that is rarely seen on screen, giving a welcome and heartfelt homage to all the female composers who fell into the void of history.

Britt Sørensen
Edited by Robert Horton