Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Renegotiating Betrayal and Trust in Le Fate Ignoranti
Le Fate Ignoranti a 2001 Italian film about a woman, a man, and the man they both love. The story pushes forward the idea that no one chooses who they fall in love with and the ability to enjoy life is the most precious experience we are offered. Although, beautifully set, the beginning of the film does play like a soap opera plot. As a result of Massimo’s (played by Andrea Renzi) untimely death, Antonia (Margherita Buy) realizes that through half of her marriage her husband has had a lover (Stefano Accorsi). In an attempt to reconcile Massimo’s death and adultery Antonia becomes friends with her late husband’s lover Michele.
The opening sequences of the film take us through Antonia and Massimo’s life together. She is a doctor who works in a small clinic, while Massimo works as a businessman. They live in a beautiful home in the suburbs of Rome, where they share everything and everyone has their place. The maid seems to forget this on occasion, and as a result, early in the film we see she and Antonia have an argument.
Through Antonia’s friendship with Michele (her late husband’s boyfriend) we are able to see exactly how Massimo is able to love both people, maintaining a comfortable deceitful relationship with one, and a hidden though more honest relationship with another. Antonia is excellent at maintaining silence and an air of perfection around everyone in her circle, she begins her life by taking the most obvious steps toward leading a "succesful" life, these are not neccesarily the steps that lead to a fulfilling life. As Michele’s group of friends begins to embrace her, Antonia's cloud of quiet perfection lifts from her life, she is able to see the complications involved in choosing a life that is not predicated by only partaking in the activities that are deemed acceptable by mass society. Antonia grows in understanding of herself, and others by sharing in their joys and pains.
The character of Antonia’s mother Veronica (played by Erica Blanc) is a wonderful key to understanding how Antonia and Michele could have a relationship that would develop. Veronica gives sympathy to her daughter but explains the trials of being kept a secret by someone who matters to you. Veronica is able to show Antonia that Michele also suffered in his relationship with Massimo.
Michele’s neighbor Serra (played by Serra Yilmaz) is a symbol of the dichotomy Oztepek is trying to convey in this film. Serra is the embodiment of the understanding that fulfillment for a relationship needs both truth and love in order to be in balance.
The use of color to symbolize repression is a wonderful tool throughout the film. As the film opens we see Antonia in her world of muted colors and neutrals, Michele on the other hand has a Crayola box of colors in his reach. As Michele and Antonia grow closer Antonia’s color palette grows. Initially there are overwhelming greens that coincide with her grief. The true reds emerge with her understanding of Massimo and Michele and the navy of affection permeates through both characters as they get closer and closer to one another.
I believe through Le Fate Ignoranti, Ozpetek was trying to create a space of familiarity in which middle/ upper class Italians could feel comfortable. Through Antonia’s eyes the viewer has the experience of being part of a comfortable and safe majority. By using Antonia who is described as being “uninterested in life” as a conduit into another part of Italian life you see Michele and Massimo’s friends the way I believe Ozpetek thinks most Italians see queer life. Antonia however faces her friendship with Michele the same way she experiences the art gallery at the beginning of the film. She looks around admiring some pieces and moving closer to others, but at the end of the day nothing is taken with her except her recollection of the event.
The film does have quite a few disjointing characteristics. For instance the bizarre one-dimensional maid who comes across as a confusing add on. The randomly ethnic maid who listens to no one and has perpetually over the top emotions and a slight tinge of nosiness is a frustrating representation of classism and racism on screen. The relationship she has with Antonia is never clarified, but there is a brief reference to an aunt who never appears.
The many companions in Michele’s crew are incredibly overwhelming and once again the majority of them have the characteristics of cardboard cutouts. The main purpose of the film on the surface seems to be to remove stereotypes attached to people lifestyles and love.
Unfortunately by including so many characters with no explanation for their presence or their motivations stereotypes pervade through the movie. There is the Character of Emir Serra’s brother who presents himself as the tall dark handsome foreigner come to take Antonia away from her life of predictability. The pudgy party kid who is only interested in guys and parties and the older gay man that has no issue with bringing a stranger to lunch with friends because he’s cute are two examples of Ozpetek’s excess, in poor explanation of representation. The worst of all was the conversion scene. Michele has had the same boyfriend for seven years. Suddenly he’s going to fall in love with his boyfriend’s jilted wife? Does that not play into the “he just hasn’t met the right woman” line?
For the most part the film was entertaining but having to stick with a main character that is such a leech does take some of the sweetness from the film. Also Ozpetek’s insistence that Michele and his friends would put up with a woman who denies their presence is disappointing. Antonia’s ability to be friends with Michele, but never want to admit that he is a part of her world, as well as the hiding of her pregnancy from her “friends” does make an Antonia a less than sympathetic character.
A profile for Le Fate Ignoranti at IMDb
A Review of Le Fate Ignoranti in English from Bright Lights
A Review of Le Fate Ignoranti in English at Guardian Unlimited
A Review of Le Fate Ignoranti in English at Time Out New York
A Review of Le Fate Ignoranti in Italian at reVision Cinema
A Review of Le Fate Ignoranti in Italian by Cine File
A Synopsis of Le Fate Ignoranti in Italian from Wikipedia