In the films Respiro (2002) and Nuovomondo (2006), creations of director Emanuele Crialese, viewers experience the lives of individuals from little known parts of Italy and go on an epic journey with others. Respiro takes us to modern day Lampedusa while in Nuovomondo we go back in time to rural, turn of the 19th century
Respiro follows a young family through their life on the tiny isle of Lampedusa. On this island the everyone seems to know each other (or may even be related). Grazia, the loving, flighty, and sometimes crazy mother of this family is played by Valeria Golino. The film follows her struggle between a free spirit and the grim realities on the island. While her story moves the film forward, we also see the relationships between Filippo and Pasquale (Filippo Pucillo and Francesco Casisa) and their father Pietro (Vincenzo Amato) who struggles in vain to keep his family whole.
Italy is a very diverse county and this is captured by the film. While watching, many native Italians may have trouble understanding the film as it is spoken in the native dialect, something similar to Sicilian. We can also see the local dislike of outsiders when Filippo crashes the date between his sister, Marinella (Veronica D’Agostino), and the local police officer who just recently came to the island. The struggles on the island move to a higher level when Grazia suddenly vanishes without a trace. Although the film is filled with struggle, is also filled with beautiful vistas; when screening Respiro one can almost breathe in the fresh sea air with a sigh of relief.
Nuovomondo is a story of a struggling family in rural and superstitious Sicily going on an odyssey in search of a new land full of promise, and even a giant chicken or two! In the opening scenes we see Salvatore (Vincenzo Amato) and one his sons climb a rough, rocky mountain with stones in their mouths as a sacrifice to god once they get to the top. Praying for divine inspiration, they are shown photos of this “new world” where money grows on trees and chickens are larger than men. Finding this signal to go, Salvatore packs up all his belongings (all of which he can carry on his back) and his family for their voyage to this new and mysterious land. Along the way they run into giant olives and carrots and swim through rivers of milk. While leaving
This quality, but overly art filled film shows the audience a different side of the immigrant story. From rural Sicily, a land without electricity, running water or other conveniences in life to a ride atop a giant steal monster (their boat), this story throws our characters from one strange new world to another. Once they reach the new world our family is exposed to the once common practice of eugenics on the famed
Crialese is able to produce a quality film which the audience is able to fall into as he does in each of these movies. Where he may lose some is with his love of the abstract. In each of his films there is a strange scene of swimming in a dream like world. In Respiro, this is towards the end of the film once Grazia has been found. The shot shows what seems to be most of the characters from the film swimming from below the surface of the water. This underwater trance lasts for several minutes and leaves an empty feeling once you have finished the film.
In Nuovomondo, there are several times when our characters are swimming through rivers of milk. In these scenes there are giant carrots that are used as flotation devices. At another point in the picture we see a family carrying giant olives and carrots. At the end, there is another scene of all the characters from the film swimming together in a sea of milk. While these scenes are understandable, I believe that they take away from the film. I am emerged in the lives of our characters and I am abruptly awakened by the overly fictional imagination of Crialese. When watching a movie, I prefer to not have my mind over stimulated by such nonsense.
Another aspect that I found frustrating in Nuovomondo was the fact that Vincenzo Amato went though such great lengths to learn the native tongue of a rural Sicilian town only to be understood and understand every single Italian throughout the movie Nuovomondo. In reality, he would have had trouble understanding most people on the boat. In rural
Although each of these movies contains strange scenes of swimming and other dream like sequences, you come to appreciate the magical experience of these films. Each has something to give while providing you with beautiful views of southern
Rotten Tomatoes on Respiro:
Rotten Tomatoes on Nuovomondo:
History of Emanuele Crialese: