Stanza del figlio
review by Cynthia Fuchs, 1 March 2002
(Nanni Moretti) is a good man, a dedicated psychoanalyst, loving
husband, and sensible father. A series of short scenes at the
beginning of The Son's Room -- last spring's Palme d'Or
winner, directed and co-written by Moretti, with Linda Ferri and
Heidrun Schleef -- reveals his stability and contentment. He sits
patiently through variously (sometimes comically) dull patients'
narrations (detailing dreams and physical ailments), takes morning
jogs through the pretty seaport town of Ancona, eats family dinners
with his beautiful teenager, Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice) and Irene
(Jasmine Trinca), and loving wife Paola (Laura Morante).
most families, this one negotiates minor bumps, but the film is
already setting up a tension, as little incidents look vaguely
ominous, signs that daily life is either too routine, or not quite
routine enough: Irene rides on a friend's motorbike through busy
streets, thrilling to the risk; Paola witnesses a mugging, too close
for comfort; Andrea is busted for stealing a fossil from his science
classroom, perhaps rebelling against expectations that he'll always
be the golden boy that he has been, perhaps just bored. And
Giovanni, listening to one patient relate his experiences with porn
and another list her obsessive-compulsive behaviors, he can't help
himself: as they lie on the couch, away from him, he rolls his eyes,
then imagines jumping up during the latter's session to show her his
neatly lined-up collection of running shoes. "Look," he
tells her in his daydream, "I'm just as boring as you!"
as the film goes on to insist, such tedium is life, and it is
precious. Nothing can prepare Giovanni or his family for what's to
come, though by now you'll likely have a sense that this surplus of
comfort is about to crack open. As it usually does, life-changing
disaster comes unexpectedly.
the day that his son dies, a Sunday, Giovanni goes to see a patient
recently diagnosed with lung cancer. In doing so, he breaks a
jogging date he's made with Andrea. At the time, the change in plans
seems insignificant; Andrea is reluctant, more interested in going
diving with his friends, and Giovanni is also vaguely distracted.
They can always go jogging another day. Then, Andrea has his
accident -- for some unknowable reason, he is trapped in an
underwater cave and drowns. And suddenly, Giovanni's decision looks
like a tragic, horrific, unforgivable error.
rest of the film concerns the survivors' efforts to live with their
guilt, rage, sorrow, and, perhaps especially, with each other. Their
initial collapses are followed by displays of stoic resolve,
mutually supportive (being "strong" for one another) and
self-isolating. At the funeral home, they view the body, surrounded
by family and friends; then, as the others clear out, Giovanni
watches as workers drill the coffin shut: the sound, so everyday, is
harrowing. And his visit to a marine shop to inquire after the
workings of oxygen tanks leads to further frustration: there is no
reason for what went wrong, no explanation. Only anger, grief, and
going through "the son's room," Paola comes across a
letter from a girl that Andrea knew briefly, one summer, and the
girl becomes a kind of unseen conduit, a means to reconnect with and
eventually, let go of him. But when she presses Giovanni to contact
Arianna (Sofia Vigliar), he resists, fearful that the slightest
opening will allow all his finely tamped down pain to come rushing
to the surface. At last, the family does meet with her while she
passes through Ancona on a hitchhiking trip with a friend, and
though charming and sweet, Arianna is also unexceptional. Still,
this becomes significant: Arianna's ordinariness is in itself
somewhat startling, and her youthful anticipation and lack of
burden, become the means by which Giovanni, Paola, and Irene can
begin to come to terms not only with their bereavement, but with one
another, this realized in its closing image, as they wander into
sunlight, separately, but as if drawn to the same warmth.
film is something of a departure for Moretti, best known for his
comedies (some call him "the Woody Allen of Italy," as
he's similarly a multi-threat artist: star, director, and writer).
This makes The Son's Room, so dark, raw, and, perhaps
especially, subtle, something of a surprise. It's a film that repays
re-viewing, because it breaks down the pieces of grief in such
detail. And it's a film that has been re-read since September 11,
inevitably. A 24 February New York Times piece lines it up
Todd Field's In the Bedroom, Tsai Ming-liang's What Time
Is It There?, and Marc Forster's Monster's Ball, as one
of several meditations on the aftermath of death, on survivors'
efforts to live on. But while events have necessarily changed
perspectives on The Son's Room, it maintains a gentle,
respectful sensibility: characters' responses are erratic -- ranging
from admirably self-aware to understandably irrational -- but not
milked for pathos or grand pronouncements on the human condition.
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult