An Endless Sunday: Are We Welcomed in This World?
When our teenage hero wants to break the barrier of sidelining, imposed on him by Rome/the city/Mother for no apparent reason—even though she was the one who brought him (metaphorically) to this life, he decides to leave an indelible mark on her memory: To kill the Pope/Father.
This is how we can read the last scene of An Endless Sunday by the young Italian director Alain Parroni. The film received the FIPRESCI International Critics Association Award for Best First Work and the Special Jury Prize in the Horizons Competition at the 80th session of the Venice International Film Festival (8/30 – 9/9).
In light of the final scene of the Pope being shot from atop a bridge fenced with bars—which makes the one standing on it look as if trapped inside a cage, reflecting the state of siege and marginalization imposed on the three teenagers, the heroes of the film—in light of this scene, we can contemplate and interpret many of the details that were scattered here and there throughout the film, in a context that seems not precisely arranged, but is creative and persuasive as much as it is shocking and chaotic.
Is it doomsday?
Choosing “Sunday” in film’s title cannot be separated from its connotations, from the overall context or the final scene. Sunday is a holy day for Christians in a country that contains the heart of the Catholic doctrine, vibrant with love and peace—The Vatican.
It is the day on which the Pope goes out after Mass to greet the St. Peter’s Churchgoers, some of whom come from the end of the world in order to be blessed by seeing the Supreme Pontiff.
It is an official holiday in the state, and the day on which Jesus was resurrected according to Christian belief in its various sects.
This is a title that reminds us of the title of Eternity and a Day by Angelopoulos, where the entire film seems to take place in one long day with no specific or expected end. It is as if the lives of the three teenagers have turned into a sacred official holiday, but this day off does not end, so the work week begins. As if this day becomes a pilot to their lives, which are at a standstill at the borders of futility, and loss of identity and hope.
The life that resembles a child born after a complicated delivery—like the fetus that the girl carries in the last scene, tormented as she tries to bring it to life. But she is detained at a traffic light without help. A story that we will return to later.
Sunday is the same day on which the three teenagers—the two boys and the girl—decide to celebrate a birthday of one of them, by crossing the city’s roads at breakneck speed, as if they wanted to breathe life into its arteries/streets, which are dead from their point of view.
This is how we see them at the beginning, as if they emerged from a void. We do not know any information about them regarding their family backgrounds, and we do not see their fathers or mothers, except for one teenager’s grandmother, who hosts them in her house in order for the girl to confirm whether she is pregnant from her boyfriend or not—or if the boyfriend is the father, or their other friend, as we will suspect later!
The grandmother, who lives in a suburb relatively far from the city, seems to be what remains of their intentionally absent family, carrying the legacy of warm grandmothers who have nothing but absolute love for their grandchildren. She holds the essence of popular and human experiences that have evaporated from the city’s memory under the pretext of modernity and passage of time.
At dawn on an endless Sunday, a car tire explodes. The three teenagers scream their hearts out from the car’s open roof as if they wanted to wake up the city’s residents. This explosion is a clear foreshadowing of the missteps and defeats that will befall them later, as if fate, the city, and life itself are conspiring against them.
It is worth noting here that the coming-of-age theme dominates most films screening at Mostra 80 Horizons Competition, whether in the “first work” category or others, which opens up a golden contemplative energy to reflect and think deeply about an important question, posed by the group of cinematic experiments coming from the corners of the planet: Do the children of this decade feels welcomed in this world?
An Endless Sunday poses this question with the utmost clarity, and with the cruelty of bombarding the recipient’s consciousness with a question mark that is not easy to answer.
When the girl feels she is pregnant, she opens up to her young lover, who decides to start working, doing anything, so he can be prepared to start a family that was doomed to be fragile before it was even formed. He works on what looks like a farm. He takes out a group of sheep every day to the suburbs. This strange farm is owned by an eccentric mafiosi, who appears to be the leader of a gang that steals cars and dismantles them, disguising these business profits through the primitive animal farm that he runs, and who is found murdered in the end in a quick shot—at the bottom of the staircase in the grandmother’s house across the strange farm.
Where exactly does the crisis begin? By this we mean the dramatic crisis that forms the plot mass, moving it towards the climax!
In fact, there is no dramatic crisis in the traditional sense! The entire film is a huge existential, social, and human crisis that casts a shadow over the three characters. It is true that we can say that the doubts of the third boy, which he threw into the heart of his friend, are considered the beginning of a crisis and rift between them—when he slapped him with the sharp question, “Who told you that what is in your lover’s womb is your son?”
But this question, which creates a problem between the three young parties, cannot be considered a crisis as much as it is part of the metaphorical process of presenting the idea of the city’s orphaned children.
The boys are two sides of the same coin, as if they were one being with two heads. The first wants to have a family because he misses this warm, unifying feeling, and that is why he is happy that his lover’s small womb is carrying a fetus from his heart, and that’s why he seeks to work and secure money for them. The second is a rebel who lusts after everything that is absurd, chaotic, and childish. He does not leave a wall, a roof, a ground, a standing or deformed object without tampering with it and soiling it with writing, cursing, or drawing, as if he wanted to leave his mark on the skin of the city—just like his friend in the last scene when he decides to assassinate the Pope.
The sharp question that tore the lover’s side was nothing but an indication that the girl might be pregnant from both boys, because, as we have indicated, they are one being. Rather, when she decides to rebel against her lover indirectly, she goes out with the friend and they decide to break the stagnation of the alienating crisis they are experiencing by leaving their traces in the background of all pictures of tourists crowded with the city’s arteries, fountains, and famous squares. We see in breathless succession how they choose to dominate backgrounds of tourists’ pictures and stand to kiss each other in violence, sensuality, and lust to leave a mark.
They are the children of the city, who see themselves as the most deserving people to live in it and enjoy everything it offers to strangers and passers-by in exchange for depriving them of it, and therefore they decide without much talk to leave their mark in the easiest and quickest way they know how: kissing.
A pen, a knife, and a fetus
Besides their lips that meet in countless kisses in the streets, on the beach and in the car, city children have other tools to leave a mark: The pen that they use to draw and sign on the walls, and the knife that the friend carries, which scratches the cars, walls, and fences, as if there was an intention to make the city bleed as they themselves bleed their lost souls, but because the city’s skin is thick, it does not feel any of those faded scars.
At the end of the miserable months, and also on a Sunday – perhaps the same Sunday on which the film began but did not end—the little girl’s labor comes while her lover has gone to make the biggest impact, which is his random decision to assassinate the Pope.
As a result of the state of chaos that prevails in the city, the streets are closed to traffic, and thus the friend gets stuck along with the pregnant friend on their way to the hospital. At that time, he gets out of the car, and as his lost abandoned childhood memories return to him, he screams for help to the passengers of the parked cars (“Please, I want help! Help me”), and when no one responds to him, he decides to admit for the first time the bitter truth that they always tried to deny (“I am only 16 years old and I need help”).
This sentence is a cry for help for an entire generation, but rather a cry for help for an entire class of teenagers around the world at this painful moment in time.
As for the fetus during childbirth, it is another tool for leaving a mark, and it is also part of the continuity of the question that we previously referred to—the mysterious welcome and appreciation question. The two young lovers keeping the upcoming fetus inside the new girl’s womb is also part of their desire to leave a mark on the face of the city or in its memory. It is part of their attempt to answer the question: Are we, and those coming after we are gone, to be welcomed in this life and this world?
Because the question mark is open, the last shot is nothing but an overhead view from the eye of God, where the city is afflicted with extraordinary traffic jams, and mysterious chaos after the assassination attempt on the father/symbol of the transcendent religion looms with no significant impact on their souls, so the shot keeps going up and up as if it were a heavenly or existential abandonment. As if what is happening downstairs does not concern anyone! Although in reality, it concerns everyone.
Rami Abdel Razek
Translated by: Rola Adel
Edited by Robert Horton
© FIPRESCI 2023