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aka - Caos Calmo
Italy 2008
Directed by
Antonello Grimaldi
112 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

Quiet Chaos

Synopsis: Pietro Paladini (Nanni Moretti) and his brother Carlo (Alessandro Gassman) save two women from drowning at the beach one day. When Pietro returns home he is shocked to find his wife has died in a bizarre accident. When Pietro takes his young daughter Claudia (Blu Yoshimi) to school he decides, perhaps concerned for her welfare, to sit on the adjacent park bench and wait for her all day. That day extends into the next, and the next. Pietro’s colleagues, family and friends start to visit him on the bench, variously amazed, puzzled and inspired by his vigil.

Nanni Moretti is an actor able to embody complex emotions, as he did so well in The Son’s Room, another moving tale of loss. Here he also acts as screenwriter for this film based upon Sandro Veronesi’s novel, of the seemingly successful executive whose life is turned upside down in a flash.

What struck me as clever about this film, is how the central character is such a pivotal and constant presence in the story and how his often impassively calm presence causes those around him to open up. He virtually is never absent from the screen. While Pietro sits calmly on the bench, or moves to a nearby restaurant, things of depth and intensity take place all around him. His bereaved sister-in-law Marta (Valeria Golino) comes to him with personal traumas and accusations about Pietro’s lack of feelings for his dead wife. His colleagues, who are in the middle of a convoluted business merger, come to consult (giving occasion to excellent performances by notable French actors Charles Berling and Hippolyte Girardot). A mother with her Downs Syndrome son forms a small and touching bond with Pietro, whilst a girl (Kasia Smutniak) walking a huge dog seems destined to do more than glance his way.

In the times Pietro leaves the bench he meets with other school mothers at a cafe, or with brother Carlo. And in one rather dramatic and unexpected intensely sexual scene (giving the film its MA rating!) he meets Eleonora (Isabella Ferrari) for a very raw encounter, which, in light of earlier events has much to do with Pietro’s ability to heal and move on.

Pietro may seem to be impassive in the face of personal disaster, but I perceive that Moretti is a strong enough actor to let us peek under the skin of his character and understand the true level of his grief, which does in fact emerge in one powerful scene. Young Yoshimi is impressive as Claudia, the daughter whose ability to handle such a massive loss is almost too unbelievable. The relationship between her and her father is beautifully played out. And it is her final mature request for a present from her father that really impresses as a compelling resolution to the film.

The very unusual, almost too gentle, approach to complex subject matter left me wishing to have felt just a touch more emotionally engaged but as its title indicates, quietude is the dominant key in film for those wishing to contemplate the strange ironies and twists of life.




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