Padre (2016) **

September 26th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Giada Colagande; Cast: Giada Colagande, Willem defoe, Franco Battiato, Miarina Abramovic; Italy/USA 2016, 93 min.

Director/co-writer/star Giada Colagande (Open My Heart) does away with a tangible narrative in this thoughtfully languorous and stunningly captured meditation on death and bereavement, divided into seven chapters with seemingly symbolic headlines suck as “Free from illusion, new motives develop for every act and thought”. Colagrande relies on an associative structure where storytelling is replaced by episodes from the family history, but all she achieves is enigma, which beguiles initially but not for the film’s entire running time. 

In a seaside suburb of Rome, Giulia Fontana (Colagrande) is mourning the sudden death of her father Giulio (Battiato), a well known artist. Skyping with her mother (Abramovic) is one form of release, but Giulia is also comforted by a circle of close friends and amongst them is James (Dafoe) who is staging a mixed-media theatre production in which Giulia has a part. These sequences help to enliven the drama’s narrative torpor adding much-needed texture to what is otherwise rather bland.

After dark, delicately realised visions of her father haunt the house they once shared in happier times, and she tries to keep him alive by reading letters and meditation exercises until the film’s intriguing denouement leaves her at peace. Giulio’s penchant for Asian mysticism and doctrines relating to the soul’s afterlife resonate powerfully in this ancient setting. Giulia is also drawn to a mysterious local art studio where she frequently rummages around in treasures and antiquities eventually uncovering its inner sanctum in the final scenes.  

DoP Tomasso Borgstrom always finds new angles to show off the atavistic beauty of Rome in a contemplative visual treatise that gets lost in a fog of words and graceful poses from her long-haired Persian cat Cosmo. MT


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