Antonia. (2015)

Glimpse at the life of 20-something Italian poetess Antonia Pozzi lacks spirit, insight into her hysterical final act.

antoniaItaly
2*

Director:
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino

Screenwriter:
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino

Carlo Salsa
Director of Photography:
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

Running time: 95 minutes

Oh, how terribly hard life must have been as a 20-something poetess living off her family’s fortune while writing poems that are never published during her lifetime. And how awful it must be to pine after two or three individuals that either shy away from her father’s criticism cutting potential suitors down to size or reject her advances and prefer to focus on their careers instead of life with her.

Antonia Pozzi, we are told via a title card at the beginning of Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s Antonia., a sumptuous recreation of the final years of her life, is one of Italy’s best 20th-century poets. However, she never saw her work accepted for publication while she was still alive, before she committed suicide out of a teenage-like compulsion to put an end to heartbreak when things don’t work out the way she thought they would.

Actress Linda Caridi’s portrayal of the most productive but most melancholic years of the life of this writer born into a very well-to-do family in Milan is commendable for its consistency and for never dissolving into kitsch. The film also has beautiful imagery that ranges from sweeping vistas of the Dolemites to an exquisitely framed shot of an interaction that takes place in a way that immediately conveys distance instead of the expected intimacy. But despite the technical mastery of the medium, the story fails to engage us because some of the young woman’s actions are simply childish, and while the camera is deployed in a way that does not attract attention to itself, there are also ridiculous close-ups of pages filled with the work, published much later, of this woman whose “struggles” we witness here.

But let us be honest, these are not struggles. She lives a life of luxury at home, exquisitely decked out by the film’s production designer Bruno Duarte, plies her passion for photography and seems to be rather skilled at developing her own pictures (presumably in her own dark room). She also has friends who respect her and has an outlet for her emotions in the form of her poetry. Perhaps that is why the two suicide attempts we witness do not elicit the tiniest bit of empathy from us.

This is Filomarino’s first feature. His previous film, a 20-minute short entitled Diarchy (Diarchia), starred Louis Garrel and Alba Rohrwacher as half-siblings who receive a visit from an acquaintance at their parents’ villa, and things suddenly get out of hand. The director showed he has not only the talent to put together a visually striking film but also a strong voice of his own with which he addressed issues of class by means of a thriller that in its final shot suddenly turns into a mystery.

But Antonia. is surprisingly lacking in layers, and while the editing does seek to sometimes fold different moments in time onto each other, the effect is shallow and dull. It is easy to blame the upper-class setting that is devoid of any serious struggle or dilemma, but the screenplay deserves most of the blame. Producer Luca Guadagnino’s similarly situated I Am Love (Io sono l’amore) was a tour de force because of its beauty, its performances and above all its wholly relatable human emotions and conflicts that included secrecy, lust and betrayal. By contrast, Antonia. is like a piece of smoothly polished marble that neither conveys a discernible form nor elicits an emotional reaction from the observer.

At one point, without any warning, Filomarino slows down his already lethargic production to play an entire song on the soundtrack while we watch Pozzi’s naked back , buttocks slightly exposed, while she is lying on the bed, presumably overcome by sadness or angst, or both, but we are even left out of the loop here, because we do not get to see her face.

Antonia. is not pretentious (although the title certainly could have done without the ridiculous full stop), but it certainly does not entertain nor does it penetrate the head or the soul of its main character. The decision to give us close-ups of her published work, wholly devoid of atmosphere, is unforgivable. It plays a big role in dragging this film about a calm but spoilt woman – who had fits of hysteria when her relationships did not work out – down to the banal and compares poorly to an opening shot of a Rodin sculpture. Surely, one of Italy’s best 20th-century poets was more interesting than this.

 Viewed at the 2015 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

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