Direct from Cannes this visually rich costume drama rips the jaw-dropping true story of the abduction of a young Jewish boy by the Catholic church from the pages of history.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Veteran director Marco Bellochio returns to the Festival with this rousing historical epic fresh from Cannes. Based on the true story of Edgardo Mortara, a six-year-old Jewish boy who was abducted by the Catholic church in 19th-century Italy. Unbeknown to his parents young Edgardo had been secretly baptised by his family’s doting Catholic maid and when the story is revealed the fanatical church authorities take it as their cue to snatch the boy and whisk him away to the Vatican where he can be raised as a Catholic.
“Religious and political fanaticism, the abuse of power, emotional manipulation and blackmail: these subjects have always fascinated Italian director Marco Bellocchio. His most passionate films centre on lives taken, warped or ruined in the service of a cause, and Kidnapped is no exception. A sinewy period piece, it uses the true story of a young Jewish boy who was almost literally ‘kidnapped’ by the Vatican in the mid 19th century as a study in what happens when fragile human values come up against an autocratic system underpinned by immovable dogma.
With its enjoyably over-the-top orchestral soundtrack, pin-sharp casting and old-school period-film production values, Kidnapped initially feels like a fairly conventional take on a remarkable historic cause célèbre… But once we enter the Vatican and meet the needy, imperious pope played with malevolent glee by Paolo Pierobon (a gifted theatrical actor still underused in the cinema) the film shifts gear. Melodrama curdles and turns acid, as a serpentine script (co-written with fellow director Susanna Nicchiarelli) takes our naive wish to see justice done, to see a shocking anti-Semitic wrong righted, and hangs it out to dry.” — Lee Marshall, Screendaily