Screened as part of NZIFF 2003
Retirement comes suddenly for Fernando, a professor of literature in Buenos Aires. Argentina can no longer afford him. He and Lily, his wife of many years, are obliged to consider, much sooner than they had planned, how to spend their remaining years. Lily is Spanish and works as a social worker in the poor neighbourhoods of the city. Devoted to each other and completely attuned to each other’s idiosyncrasies, they seek a future that will suit them both. In the process they travel to Spain in the hope of some rapprochement with their estranged only son. Eventually they sell their city apartment and move to the country with the intention of growing lavender for perfume.
Federico Luppi fits so readily into the shoes of Fernando that he may be playing himself. A long-since disillusioned leftist, he articulates the accumulated wisdom of his years in dialogue of bracing intelligence and honesty. His farewell speech to his students is a passionate denunciation of dogma, expressing the hope that they will take it upon themselves to ‘awaken your students to the pain of lucidity. With no limits. No mercy.’ This intellectual ferocity comes from a man incapable of killing a chicken for dinner. What makes the film uniquely engrossing is the delicacy and the toughness of the relationship it describes between this formidable, demanding man and the one person in the world he deems worthy of his respect. ‘The best questions are the ones people have been asking since the time of the Greeks’, says Fernando. Avoiding pretension, sentimentality or cliché, Common Ground reminds us that he’s right. — BG