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Medeas: Tearing down the walls of a family


- Pallaoro´s chilling observational drama peel layers of family and personal fortification until the bitter bare existential dead end

Medeas: Tearing down the walls of a family

Award-winning Italian-born director Andrea Pallaoro moved from short films to feature territory with his latest film. The director´s main preoccupation lies in the investigation of the human perception of alienation and intimacy, which basically forms thematic background of Medeas [+see also:
film profile
(photo), which is being screened at the Viennale (October 24-November 6). Furthermore, he joins the alarmist wave reporting on crumbling walls of institutions such as family.

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The object of scrutiny is a rural family in the midst of vast plains. Their daily routine on a farm is carried out almost in silence, not only due to mute the mother. Each of the members seems to have some sort of problem to deal with. But mostly the parents are drifting away from each other, the reason left unspoken.

The father works hard on a bovine farm to make ends meet, while his wife became a housewife imprisoned by the walls of her house, only leaving occasionally, under the pretence of grocery shopping, for a fling with a young local filling station mechanic. The younger kids are trying to understand the world, the older ones are coping with blossoming sexuality. The tension starts boiling when the wife refuses to fulfil ,her “conjugal duty” thus driving the husband literally mad.

Medeas is a minimalistic observational study, the portrait of a family on the brink of a breakdown. Not the loud and obvious one. This one is almost intangible and subtle, gently peeling off one layer of family and personal fortification after another until the bitter bare existential dead end. Pallaoro adapts the directorial style to this fact in a slow paced series of snapshots focused mostly on one or two members. Exquisite framing through doorways, mirrors, hallways and windows and interior scenes in general builds up a desperate and suffocating atmosphere. The dichotomy of life within the house and outside forms a parallel to obligations and desires.

The storytelling is conveyed through images, immersive composition and brilliantly designed juxtaposition. The lack of dialogue and ascetic execution facilitates a non-judgmental and unbiased viewing experience, the good and evil are virtually inexistent. The hazy outlook as to who´s the culprit and who´s the victim enables us to perceive the characters as plastic and difficult entities. After all, the story engine is not a whosdunnit scenario, but the wider psychological configuration of characters and their inner lives. Even though the centre of the conflict lies between the husband and wife, the children don´t really participate in their feud, but rather have their own share of issues to capture, which is what renders Medeas a psychological observation in every possible sense.

Medeas is produced by Varient.

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