Via Castellana Bandiera Review

Posted 9 years ago by myetvmedia

This is not a comfortable film to watch, nor should it be. Emma Dante has made a small film with a huge and wounded heart. Easily interpreted as a film about what is wrong with southern Italy and particularly Sicily, it is much more; a deep sense of dread and hopelessness in the film is only redeemable by Dante’s sensitive portrayal of Rosa (played by Dante herself) and Samira (Elena Cotta). Two women caught in a standoff driven (both literally and figuratively) by a personal and cultural strife, victims of a misogynist heritage and ignorance, their tribulation culminates in a deeply earned admiration from the viewer as they grudgingly earn each other’s respect. While the men living on the Via Castellana commit to violence and fraud, their obedient women to gossip and superstition, Rosa and Samira commit to their integrity as human beings with inevitable tragic consequence.

From the opening scenes where Rosa and her lover Clara (Alba Rohrwacher) engage in a tense spat while driving through Palermo, to Samira mourning her long dead daughter prostrate over her tombstone, we see only the back of their heads, faceless. This peculiar technique draws us irreversibly into their world. The camera forces us into the question: who are these women? Sufferance and pain are palpable. They each arrive in their cars on the Via Castellana from opposite directions: the real narrative begins with a nerve racking Mexican style standoff. At one point, Samira pees in the street to mark her territory. Not to be outdone, Rosa squats and so it goes. This could have easily devolved into a comedic romp but no such relief is given. We can only wince at the ignorance and all too real caricature of Via Castellana’s men and women. Dante never loses sight of the high stakes in a metaphysical contemplation of the plight of her characters. That is what is so arresting about her style: we want to laugh at a truly ludicrous circumstance but this is not hyperbolic verisimilitude, it’s rather a non-stylized realism. Even when the camera gives us their faces, angles are tight, wrinkles and dark circles under the eyes. The faces are nonetheless strangely beautiful because Dante pulls off a rare treat in film: we are allowed to peer into their troubled and uncomfortable souls.

We are given some clues as to how this circumstance ends in hopelessness. Economic conditions in Italy’s deep south are obviously challenging; abandoned lots, trash and tight living conditions add to a sense of being stuck. Dante takes you there as a backdrop to what is a much more grievous circumstance: these people have been slowly shorn of their humanity and it takes these two women to break an obvious cycle of submission to its power over them. In the end, Rosa and Samira are the same woman at two different stages of the same life. Samira is willing to give up hers to symbolically save Rosa’s. This film captures a small story on a very small street, tackling a big issue with a deep existential sensitivity. .


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Via Castellana Bandiera Review

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