Monday, April 19, 2010

Il Vento Fa Il Suo Giro

Il Vento Fa Il Suo Giro

Nestled in the Italian Alps, the historic and native language, Occitan, has persevered against time and the threats of modernity. It is said that languages are in a constant state of evolution with the exception of those languages that become static. If one looks at the rich literary history and spoken popularity of Occitan, it becomes evident why the Occitan descendants today feel impelled to do whatever necessary to protect their language and way of life. The factors that contribute to the survival of a linguistic minority like Occitan can be truly analyzed once one looks beyond the language as a basic form of communication. A language like Occitan has greater odds of surviving when its people protect its best interest. Language is indicative of a culture: it embraces specific values, ways of life, and most importantly, a sense of community. Exemplary of the cultural ties to language is the film Il Vento Fa Il Suo Giro. It is a film about language; however, in order to appreciate the artistic and provocative qualities of the film, one needs to separate the notion of grammar and syntax from the concept of language and instead, concentrate on its speakers.
The film tells the story of the quiet and desolate mountain town, Chersogno, inhabited by a small population of Occitan descendents. Protective of their language and culture, the villagers are reluctant to share their way of life with newcomers, with the exception of the summer tourists that flock to the town once a year to marvel at the serenity and beauty of the Piedmont region. The locals of Chersogno are taken by surprise when a mysterious Frenchman stumbles upon the village during the solitary months of winter. Enticed by the town’s seclusion and its vast landscape, shepherd Philippe Heraud, believes he has found the ideal spot to bring his family and herd of goats to continue his artesian cheese making. After inquiring about a home to rent, Philippe must await the communal decision of the Chersogno townspeople to determine if he and his family will be welcomed into the intimate yet selective community. While the ‘sindaco’, or town mayor, encourages the townspeople to embrace the newcomer’s arrival, many are still skeptical. Reluctantly, the villagers agree to allow the Frenchman and his family to settle in their village with the hope that Philippe’s pastoral practices will attract tourism to their dying town. Despite the initial kindness of the Chersogno people, Philippe learns quickly that tolerance is not synonymous with acceptance.

A Sense of Community

Before the arrival of the Heraud family, the people of Chersogno come together in an amazing act of solidarity to perform a ‘rueido’. A tradition dating back to the Second World War, a ‘rueido’ is when a community comes together to help out one individual for the good of others. While the men work to collectively restore the house that has been rented to Philippe, the women come together to prepare homemade pasta and other local cuisine in anticipation of the Heraud’s arrival. Their preparations are a collaborative effort, but what unites the Chersogni in the rueido is language. Not only do we see the men and women speaking Occitan while working, but the Occitan language prevails during all community affairs. From political discourse regarding the town’s future to the rueido to festivals, the Occitan language serves as a familiar and intimate means of communication. The sense of community seen in the film must also be considered in terms of its negative connotations. When Emma, one of the town’s eldest members, has an altercation with Philippe, she distorts the details of the story to the town, and paints a violent picture of Philippe. Not knowing the facts of the story, many townspeople come together to support Emma because their allegiance is to one of their own kind. A group of undisclosed villagers even go so far as slaughtering two of Philipp’s goats. Another example of a negative sense of community can be seen when many of the locals unite in making false claims to the local health department about Philipp’s supposed unsanitary living and working conditions. Despite Philippe’s persistence and positive attitude, the multitude of conflicts between the village and his family eventually force him away.

Throughout the film, disharmony and conflict play a major role in the storyline. At times, these conflicts are justified while at other times, they’re invented to create disharmony. Interestingly, conflict is mainly limited to interactions between Philip’s family and the townspeople. Although we see disagreement at political meetings or contrary attitudes concerning the best interest of the town, there is almost a utopian quality about the town and its people. It is only when they feel threatened by the presence of “the foreigner” that true conflict arises. If we take into account the various conflicts throughout the film, the first true conflict concerns boundaries. When Emma is concerned that Philippe’s herd is grazing on her land she reprimands him (in Occitan) for not having control over his animals. What seems to be a petty trifle over where Philippe’s goats are allowed to graze is actually a metaphor for the invisible boundaries created by its villagers designed to keep people out. Initially, there are the goats that cross the invisible lines of physical property, but ultimately during a succession of other conflicts, it is “the foreigner” that crosses boundaries and invades the villagers’ space. By the end of the film, we learn that the space which Philippe and his family invade is actually the space of a foreign culture; a culture set in its ways and unwilling to open its door to the possibilities of change.

The Title
I think it is important to end with a comment or two regarding the title of the film since it is mentioned at the opening and ending scenes. Il Vento Fa Il Suo Giro, or “The Wind Blows Around” can undisputedly be interpreted in many different ways. When I think of wind’s capability and capacity, I’m reminded of turbulence, commotion, and unease; however, once the wind stops blowing, calmness is restored. Like life, there are periods of chaos and confusion like there are periods of tranquility and serenity. There is always a balance. While in the film, the Heraud family blows in and as a result, the people of Chersogno collectively experience the metaphorical damage of a windy storm, the wind eventually softens and the village returns temporarily to a peaceful state. In order for the villagers of Chersogno to maintain a peaceful state, they must learn to live side by side with the “foreigner” or risk a constant state of upheaval and chaos; A state of upheaval that would ultimately contradict the peace and beauty of their surroundings.


kelco411 said...

When talking about the title of the film, my presentation to the class talked about this in detail, and I think it should be said again how important this title is to the meaning of the movie. Philippe and his family represent the wind. They come in, stir things up, and end up blowing out in the end. The village is the calm, and the wind comes in to make some waves and blow some people around. That might not have necassarily been Philippe's intention when moving here, but it is exactly what he does. Like this blog says, once the Heraud family leaves and go back to where they came from, the calm is back in the town. Everything is back to the way it was, and that is the way the townspeople like it. This title is very important to the film, and it wasn't a coincidence that it is mentioned right at the beginning and also at the end of the movie. It represents a lot.

Tani said...

I personally was not impressed with this film. I like the landscape, it was absolutely beautiful and some contents of the film were not bad. What I did not like as much was the lack of communication throughout the story. Most time you had to catch what was going on instead of actually seeing it or hearing it. I like films that are entertaining and active though, so that might be the reason why I thought the story line was weak and lacking content. I found the acting to be quite good and the picture was also very nice. I like the camera effects and felt that their transition from one scene to the next was very smooth.
I only reccomend this film to people who like very slow motion movies (and people who suffer of insomnia). Many people enjoyed the film though, so I would like to mention once again that this is just my personal opinion and I apologize if I hurt somebody's feelings with my statements.

Cinepresa87 said...

I enjoyed this film very much. Although, I found it very discouraging to see such a stubborn reaction to a family trying to bring something good to a town that needed transformation and revitalization. As a farmer myself I found it close-minded and hypocritical of the village people to think negatively of a family with all good intentions. Many years ago their (townspeople) ancestors got their hands dirty and did the exact same thing that Heraud family was trying to do. When dealing with animals, it may not always be pleasant, but it’s respectable profession. Diritti did a marvelous job filming the stunning landscape high in the Alps. In a way I found this movie similar to a Western, in the sense that a person (family) comes into a town, stirs up some controversy, a battle/argument occurs, then the person (family) leaves. It has all the elements of a western but placed in an alternative genre of film-drama.

tots288 said...

This film without a doubt is my favorite of the class and also probably has become one of my favorite movies I've every seen. It's probably because of me growing up in the Italian Alps as well, the Dolomites if you will, think actually kind of brought me back home in a sense. The life of a small mountain village is a life that is very difficult to represent and explain but this movie nailed everything in my opinion. From the stubborn-ness of the towns people, to the constant gossip of none sense that occurs and even the typical lifestyle that a beautiful village holds outside of tourist season. Very very well represented! The best part alone in my opinion is that how a hard working individual who happens to be an outsider is basically forced to leave their village. The best thing that has happened to them in a while, they push away. Unfortunately it's the reason that there are people like those that small villages like these are dying left and right. An excellent movie, I'll be watching this one many time more.

Emirjona85 said...

I liked this movie. Not only the beautiful scenery was amazing, but also the story line was interesting. It shows how a small country is afraid to have a stranger and a foreigner in town. They think that the new people could take their territory and place. It shows also "La Questione Della Lingua". You hears three different languages and it brings out a confusion not only in the film but also at the viewer. It shows the effect the the language gives in life.

Cool Italian Pics said...

I really enjoyed the cinematography of the film. I liked the story until things got ugly. I really wanted a peaceful resolution, but obviously that wasn't the filmmaker's desire.
I would have liked to see the film feature a little more on the cheese making. Since seeing the film I have actually tried goat cheese for the first time, and it is pretty good! I could easily see the scenario being adapted to a comedy, a la Monty Python.

Mr Hooster said...

This movie was my second favorite from the class behind Respiro. One of the main reasons for this was because of the beautiful landscapes presented by the Alps. The second is because it shows very well how smaller, isolated Italian communities can be. This is not just something that you will find in Northern Italy. This idea that outsiders are not welcome is present throughout the entire country. As society becomes more modern, we can see importance shifting from what city or town you are from to being Italian. Some claim this to be in part because of the establishment of the European union. In more populated places this is especially true but in more isolated places like seen in the film, people are still able to hold on to their unique identities.