"Magnificent Presence": A Subtle Tribute to Fiction

in 34th Moscow International Film Festival

by Lotfi Ben Khelifa

In his new film Magnificent Presence (Magnifica presenza) Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek surprises us by his subtle manner of speaking about art in general and especially fiction in cinema. The main character is a young person who dreams about cinema and underwent casting to be an actor.

But this is not only the story of film. The dream seems to continue in reality. Ghosts appear. They are so much, but they are only opera’s actors. We are directly submerged in the word’s art. Comedy is present. It adds a certain rhythm to the film. Daily life is confounded by dream life. Everything is real and everything is unreal. Fiction must be above all. Are we in or out of art? The theatre’s life is in front of our eyes. Ferzan Ozpetek tells his story by using flashbacks and parallel editing. Cinema becomes wide-eyed. The dream is made possible by fiction and when life becomes difficult, only the dream is possible to view differently to our own life. Cinema always exists and can change life markedly. The plot is present during this dramatic comedy. It becomes the secret. Classical cinema with intrigue is coming back to life. Much atmosphere is there; opera and music feature. From a simple story, we reach the summit of creation and great art. Emotion and dream blink with opened eyes. Ferzan Ozpetek offers great cinema like at the start of the twentieth century. It is a reference for many Italian directors.

This film, in another lecture, could be considered as a simple product for consumption. It is an improbable work of art where the narrative structure is “crazy”. We are rocked between fiction and reality. What can be the intention of the director? The part of the dream is guaranteed, but what about the rest? Banality appears and the story is always improbable. What, in this film, can exceed the limits of simple thinking? Close—ups of images participate in this process. Can we be scared by the ghosts? We continue to shift in and out of the story. We catch a line and the film becomes very interesting. The comedy is always present and permits this attachment to the film. Everyone can imagine the multiple situations in his or her life. It’s an invitation to dream, of course, but also an evocation about the use of fiction in cinema and in theatre. Magnificent Presence establishes a line between thinking about ghosts and real life. It is the theatre of life! This movie expresses the happiness and absurdity of life. The artist’s life! The film is also a tribute to late Italian actor and director Massimo Troisi. Cinema is on our minds. Cinema is alive.