Dormant Beauty

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Bella addormentata

“Sophisticated, stylish and serious… a subtle and complex depiction of recent Italian history.” — Adrian Wootton, London Film Festival

Year: 2012
Country: France, Italy
Running time: 115 mins
Censor Rating: M - adult themes

Producers: Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini, Marco Chimenz
Screenplay: Marco Bellocchio, Veronica Raimo, Stefano Rulli
Photography: Daniele Ciprì
Editor: Francesca Calvelli
Production designer: Marco Dentici
Costume designer: Sergio Ballo
Music: Carlo Crivelli
In Italian and French, with English subtitles
CinemaScope/DCP

With: Toni Servillo (Uliano Beffardi), Isabelle Huppert (Divine Mother), Alba Rohrwacher (Maria), Michele Riondino (Roberto), Maya Sansa (Rossa), Pier Giorgio Bellocchio (Dr Pallido), Gian Marco Tognazzi (Divine Mother’s husband), Brenno Placido (Federico), Fabrizio Falco (Pipino), Roberto Herlitzka (the psychiatrist), Gigio Morra (the persuader), Federica Fracassi (the Mother)

Festivals: Venice, Toronto, Busan, London 2012

Several stories are expertly interwoven in Marco Bellocchio’s powerful film. Each is touched by the 2008 real-life case of Eluana Englaro, whose father provoked a media/political frenzy by announcing his determination to turn off her life support.

‘Pro-lifer’ Maria (I Am Love’s Alba Rohrwacher) finds herself attracted to a spirited young man who holds the opposite views on euthanasia. She is drawn into his confusing family life. As a well-to-do actress maintaining a stately vigil for her own comatose daughter, Isabelle Huppert shows rather less attention to the feelings of the conscious. In a third story a world-weary doctor becomes fixated on a beautiful, suicidal methadone addict. ‘You’re free to kill yourself,’ he tells the girl, ‘and I’m free to try to stop you.’ Meanwhile, a first-term senator elected for Berlusconi’s party is called on to vote for a law designed specifically to stop Eluana Englaro from dying. It goes completely against his conscience.

If there’s a hint of melodramatic stylisation in the synopsis, rest assured that the eagle-eyed Bellocchio marshals his cast in a fluent, full-bodied style (the score is a marvel) to highly stimulating effect. Dormant Beauty is a masterful concoction, subtle in its political and philosophical shadings, yet utterly dynamic in its dramatisation of social upheaval and personal crisis. It ends with no arguments resolved, but with a gesture of the utmost tenderness.

“Bellocchio takes an x-ray of the lingering malaise of late-Berlusconi Italy and its frightening intellectual and psychological confusion – and certainly touches a nerve.” — Olaf Möller, Film Comment