2003 - Italy - 400 minutes
Writers - Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli
Director - Marco Tullio Giordana
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
No, the number of minutes shown above is no typo. This film is over six and a half hours long. But as Roger Ebert says, "I dropped outside of time and was carried along by the narrative flow; when the film was over, I had no particular desire to leave the theater, and would happily have stayed another three hours." Of course, I was watching in the comfort of my home but I agree completely with Mr. Ebert.
The narrative covers the years 1966 through 2003 and focuses primarily upon the older brother of a middle class Italian family. As it begins, the two brothers of the family are ready to pursue college education as an avenue to successful careers. The younger of them is volunteering at a local mental facility as a walker - a companion for patients who need to explore the world outside the institution. He finds that the girl he accompanies is being mistreated and more or less kidnaps her in an attempt to return her to her father's home. In this effort he seeks the help of his brother and the two embark upon an idealistic quest to return the girl to the love and safety of her home. The unhappy result of their venture changes the outlooks of both and sets them on paths which diverge from their original plans. Each chooses a new course which is in conflict with his basic personality. The older brother, who had been practical in all of his previous projects, finds himself diving into an alternative culture, whereas the younger, who had been more footloose, joins the military and eventually becomes a policeman. The encounters of both during the almost forty year span of the film gives us many insightful "what ifs" of two lives and reminds us of the enormous effect sheer chance has upon each of us.
If you are familiar with the Italian political climate and events during the era of this film, your enjoyment will be heightened , but even someone as politically innocent as I had no trouble understanding the conflicts of the major characters that come from diverging ideologies.
This film has a great "feel" to it in that it doesn't fall into the trap of being overly melodramatic, which is often the bent of films that span long periods of time. I was left with a good feeling at the end but it arose from having viewed the triumphs and tragedies of a very believable family, a family whose members change and grow as a result of their experience of life just as happens in all families no matter their geographic location.
As for geographic location, the viewer of this film is treated to many memorable scenes of Italy from the grit of the city to the blissful pleasures of the islands. The experience is one of a resident of the country rather than a tourist who only has privy to a gossamer view.
If you enjoy excellent filmmaking and a good story, I have no doubt that you will also be "carried along by the narrative flow" just as Mr. Ebert and I can guarantee you that you will enjoy the ride.
March 6, 2006