- CANNES 2022: Mario Martone introduces another quadrant to Naples’ film map by way of a movie about the need to repair our physical distance from others
Mario Martone’s has only been selected once for the Cannes Film Festival’s official competition, back in 1995, via his splendid work L’amore molesto, which was based on Elena Ferrante’s novel and saw a woman returning home to Naples on the occasion of her mother’s death. The Neapolitan director is now introducing another quadrant to his city’s film map by way of Nostalgia [+see also:
interview: Mario Martone
film profile], which is based upon Ermanno Rea’s novel of the same name and whose action unfolds in one single neighbourhood: Rione Sanità (the same setting as Eduardo De Filippo’s comedy The Mayor of Rione Sanità [+see also:
interview: Mario Martone
film profile], which Martone brought to the big screen in 2019).
Here, we’re treated to yet another reappearance, with all the symbolic references to Homer’s Ulysees this implies. After forty years spent in the Middle East and Africa, Felice Lasco (Pierfrancesco Favino) returns to Rione Sanità in Naples. He’s become a successful real estate developer in Cairo and is now rich with a wife who loves him. He’s in Naples to see his mother (Aurora Quattrocchi) who’s now very elderly. We see him looking after her and dressing her with the dedication of a priest celebrating a sacred rite. Felice wanders around the neighbourhood’s streets; he’s forgotten how to speak the Neapolitan dialect, but on the phone to his wife he insists that, despite the 40 years which have passed, “everything has stayed exactly the same”: sounds, colours, smells and violence. By way of his memories - which Martone makes visual via rapid flashbacks - we witness an adolescence punctuated by motorbike races, fights, muggings and burglaries, carried out alongside his close friend Oreste.
But when Felice’s mother dies, old ties and scars float cruelly back up to the surface. Don Luigi (Francesco Di Leva) - a priest who fights back against the Camorra by getting kids off the street through sport and music, and to whom Felice confesses - wants him to return immediately to Egypt and leave his past behind him. But Felice is determined to meet Oreste Spasiano (Tommaso Ragno) who has since become the neighbourhood’s ruthless boss. Felice shares a secret with this man, who’s a prisoner of his own identity as a “bad man”, which caused him to run away 40 years earlier and which threatens to destroy both of them today.
His is a neighbourhood which evokes nostalgia (nóstos ‘return’ + algìa ‘pain’), an all-consuming illness, as depicted in the great Andrej Tarkovskij’s Nostalghia (awarded a prize in Cannes in 1983). It’s a place where you can repair your physical distance from others. Felice needs to make amends for his earlier attempt to run away from himself, and, like Nietzsche’s traveller, he refuses the protective illusions of a future-oriented existence and accepts the unknown nature of his destiny. As per the Pier Paolo Pasolini quote which appears in the film’s epigraph, conscience revolves around nostalgia, and those who’ve never lost themselves don’t have one.
Pierfrancesco Favino is at his most intense, Francesco Di Leva is wonderful, as ever, and Tommaso Ragno is lost as a character, like Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. The film’s musical choices are excellent, ranging from old tracks by Tangerine Dream to Ya Abyad Ya Eswed by Cairokee.
Nostalgia is an Italian-French production by Picomedia and Mad Entertainment, made in association with Medusa Film, in co-production with Rosebud Entertainment Pictures, and with the support of the Italian Ministry of Culture. The film hits Italian cinemas today, 25 May, via Medusa Film, while international sales are entrusted to True Colours.
(Translated from Italian)
Photogallery 24/05/2022: Cannes 2022 - Nostalgia
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