97 minutes(4 out of 5)
Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera
Prisencolinensinainciusol. If you haven’t heard this Adriano Celentano song before, I recommend you scurry over to YouTube stat. It’s central to director Emanuele Crialese’s newest film L’immensità, screening in Wellington as part of Whānau Mārama New Zealand International Film Festival.
Having grown up in Italy, I’m familiar with Celentano and the song. He’s an icon and often considered the man who brought rock and roll to Italy. A trailblazer of the 1970s – a period of enormous turmoil, political upheaval, and change in Italy – Celentano was authentically himself. Prisencolinensinainciusol is a song that sounds like English but is complete gibberish. Its theme is the inability to communicate. It’s one thing craving to be something else, and in doing so, becoming something in between.
L’immensità follows 12-year-old Adriana or Adri (Luana Giuliani), the eldest child of three who identifies as a boy and begins to increasingly assert his trans state. Meanwhile Adri’s mother, Spanish expat Clara (Penélope Cruz), struggles to cope with her marriage to an abusive, cheating man. Unable to express themselves, both Clara and Adri feel trapped. Their relationship grows closer as their burdens increase. Celentano’s hit song frames the pair perfectly.
Production designer Dimitri Capuani and costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini had a field day recreating the vibrant absurdity of 1970s Italian style. From furniture to clothes, the colours are vibrant, the forms fanciful – a stark contrast to the inner turmoil of our protagonists. There are inserts of Cruz and Giuliani recreating scenes from famous Italian songs that provide a nice break from the intensity.
There is a lot to unpack in L’immensità, but at the same time I feel there were many moments that merely touched the surface, never delving deeper. So much happens, yet nothing ever changes – life shifts into limbo. With Italy, it’s virtually impossible to speak of something in an isolated way. As a region that has history dating back more than 3000 years, everything bleeds into everything else. A people so influenced by our ancestors and what came before, everything is connected. How can you include it all? Perhaps this immensity, l’immensità, is exactly the feeling Crialese wanted to capture.