Enea (2023) Venice Film Festival 2023

September 5th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Pietro Castellittto; Cast: Pietro Castellitto, Adamo Dionisi, Chiara Noshere, Benedetta Porcadi, Sergio Castellitto; Italy 2023, 117 min.

The Mafia theme is hard-wired into Italian life. And although on the surface of it Enea might seem just another Italian gangster flic, Pietro Castellitto’s Rome-set sophomore feature is sublimated into a sumptuously lyrical often melodramatic character study of stunted emotional development. Like the Greek hero Aeneas, son of Aphrodite, Enea struggles to do his good looks justice, and his nonchalant nature will be tested to the limit.

Enea (P. Castellitto) is drop dead gorgeous and he knows it, relying on his charisma and winning manners to sail through life. Now in his thirties, he is still joined at the hip to his close friend and fellow pilot Valentino (Dionisi) and the feeling is mutual. (“I always followed you because you are so attractive”).

But their friendship will be tested to the limit after Enea, who owns a Sushi-bar, gets involved with the mob in a drug heist worth a cool 20 million. Just how Enea got roped into the gig – or why he decides to keep the loot all to himself – is a mystery. This guy is a sly operator who slips into his gangster role with consummate ease.

Enea’s father (Stephen, the director’s actual father) is a child psychologist with a destructive personality needing to let off steam after hours. But he enjoys the emotional kudos of having a “happy family’, however fake it is. His wife (Noschere) is a TV presenter, but seem to resent her life of privilege. In a very telling scene her husband watches her nearly being hit by a falling palm tree in the atrium of the their villa. These are the kind of people who blow a gasket when the housekeeper leaves. They even employ a Filippino butler with a dodgy background, just for show.

So life is certainly not sweet in the Enea household. His much younger half-brother is a troublesome truant and the city’s General prosecutor has thick files on both Enea and Valentino. He makes the mistake of threatening the two friends in his office at the top of a skyscraper – an unwise decision as it later turns out.

Then Enea falls for Eva (Porcoroli) and this sounds the death knoll for his closeness with Valentino, setting in motion a stunningly surprising finale. DoP Radek Ladczuk captures this orgy of pyrotechnics, car chases and killings with his superior style. But the script never leaves the family setting: Enea might be the black sheep, but his relationship with Valentino (as long as it lasts) is the most honest thing here, despite its ambiguities. Do we need another Italian gangster movie?, possibly not. But this one will seduce you with its structural brilliance and visual allure. An unforgettable addition to the Mafia subgenre.AS


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