A breathtaking fable that follows a young woman’s quest to save her daughter’s soul from Limbo. One of the most impressive debut features of recent years, and a must-watch for fans of Portrait of a Lady on Fire (NZIFF 2019).
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Those who fell in love with instant classic Portrait of a Lady on Fire (NZIFF 2019) have a new treat in store for them with Laura Samani’s astonishingly assured first feature, a gorgeous, elemental spiritual fable about the power of naming and the strength of women.
Young wife Agata embarks on an arduous quest, taking her from her Mediterranean island deep into the icy north of Italy to save the soul of her stillborn daughter. According to Catholic dogma, her child could not be baptised, and thus her soul has been consigned to Limbo for all of eternity.
Agata is seeking a rumoured sanctuary where dead children can be momentarily revived, named and saved from this fate worse than death. For most of the trek, during which she bears the small coffin of her daughter like a cross, she is accompanied by the mysterious Lynx, who claims to know the way to the sanctuary in the north. As their journey to the fabled land beyond progresses, it becomes more and more challenging and folkloric: they are waylaid by bandits, must pass through a mountain and have to confront their own dark secrets.
The story is nominally set at the dawn of the 20th century, though it feels even more ancient. Its breathtaking landscapes and tactile photography are perfectly pitched between the intimate and the epic; Samani exhibits a master’s command of tone and pace from start to finish and draws exquisite performances from her two leads. Brace yourselves for a rich, emotionally intense cinematic adventure. — Andrew Langridge