Dir/Wri: Abel Ferrara | Cast: Shia LeBeouf | Asia Argento, Marco Leonardi | Drama, 104′
Abel Ferrara’s latest is a morose and brooding affair that sees the veteran director absorbed in contemplation on religion and socialism and channelling his angst through the figure of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968) a Capuchin friar and mystic who was venerated in 2002, and is played here by Shia LaBoeuf.
Pio was clearly not a happy man and the bearded and be-chausabled LaBeouf conveys this spiritual turbulence in various sequences that play out alongside the main narrative set in a small coastal town in Apulia in 1918 where soldiers are limping home from the First World War (Italy had joined Allied forces in 1915 after initially declaring neutrality).
There is much moaning and gnashing of teeth as the villagers commiserate over the death of their loved ones. Ferrara and his co-writer Maurizio Braucci reflect on the exploitation of farm workers by a glib local landowner, running for office in the elections, as the men return to their gruelling agricultural work on his land.
But change is afoot in Italy, and the socialists prevail amid threats and violence from local right-wingers. Meanwhile the stigmatised Pio is seen in vignette swearing at a young female confessor. Asia Argento gets a cameo role as ‘a man’ seeking a strange request. It’s an odd view of the Church – rather than the usual consoling, supportive religious presence, Pio is seen as an abusive figure, basking in guilt and shame, largely because he had apparently previously forged links with the fascists. So another strange and intractable film then from the accomplished director of Bad Lieutenant and Driller Killer whose Berlinale title Siberia was panned by the critics. Ferrara clearly has an axe to grind and he continues to wield it in his own artful way. @MeredithTaylor
ON DIGITAL courtesy of Dazzler Media in UK and Ireland FROM 26 JANUARY 2024 | VENICE FILM FESTIVAL PREMIERE 2023