Thursday 22 February 2024

The Wonders [2014]

 Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher stitched together The Wonders with such deceptive simplicity, delicacy and lightness that it’s easy to miss the various elements interwoven into it. Balancing naturalism, lyricism, understated immediacy and observational approach with undertones of wry satire, social commentary and magic realism, she crafted a spare yet emotionally resonant coming-of-age story that unfolded against a fading way of life outside the grid. Her interlocking portrayal of familial chaos against a vividly sunny countryside, on the verge of violently unravelling, reminds one of such films as Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga and Carla Simón’s Alcarràs; hardly incidental that all were helmed by women filmmakers adept at complementing ferocity with nuance, and political underpinnings with evocative intimacy. This last aspect was laced with additional meanings through its semi-autobiographical touches. Rohrwacher was born to German beekeeper father and Italian mother. The film’s adolescent protagonist Gelsomina (exceptionally performed by Alexandra Maria Lungu) – the introspective eldest of four sisters – similarly has a German beekeeper father in the form of the brusque and irritable Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), who’s fiercely adamant of retaining their austere lifestyle and agricultural purity borne out of his deep distrust of modernization and consumerism, and a loving if frazzled Italian mother (played, interestingly, by Alice’s elder sister Alba Rohrwacher). Their rural summer, spent collecting and processing honey with steadfast rigour, gets ruffled on account of two arrivals – a troubled German boy who’s taken in as temporary help, and a stunning buxom beauty (enacted with self-mocking irony by Monica Bellucci) spearheading a kitschy reality TV show patronizing and fetishising local culture that Gelsomina is hypnotized by. Hélène Louvart’s terrific soft-hued photography – anachronistically shot in 16mm – impregnated rich authenticity into the proceedings.

Director: Alice Rohrwacher

Genre: Drama/Family Drama/Coming-of-Age

Language: Italian

Country: Italy

No comments: