“Do you know what I thought when I saw your face that morning? Here we go again. There’s another woman. I might have preferred that.”
In Silvio Soldini’s Giorni e Nuvole (Days and Clouds) Elsa’s talking about the morning that her husband, Michele, told her that not only had he lost his job but that he’d been pretending to go to work for two months. We might question her reasoning, but she seems to know what she’s talking about since she says he looked the same the day he told her he’d been having an affair. What’s worse – a cheating husband or losing all your stuff? Interesting question.
It reminds me of that “would you rather” game.
Would you rather sleep with a hobo or swim in a lake of blood?
Would you rather have no eyes or no hands?
Would you rather have a husband with a mistress or be poor?
Elsa’s seen both and she’s thinking that maybe the mistress wasn’t so bad.
The couple was living a pretty great life; they were a little uppity and very sure of themselves. Elsa (Margherita Buy) had just gotten an art history degree and was doing some restoration work and her husband Michele (Antonio Albanese) had his own company. They had a beautiful home, hired help, and they took exotic vacations.
It’s amazing how fast everything can deteriorate when somebody loses his job.
Michele gets pretty unceremoniously squeezed out of his own company and the whole thing goes to hell. They have to move to a crowded and noisy apartment. They have to scrub their own bathroom and wash their own clothes. Michele is really having a hard time finding a new job and Elsa sets aside her art and takes jobs as a telemarketer and a secretary, working herself to the figurative bone and dragging herself home every night to fall into bed.
Millions of people live life this and do just fine, but for these two it’s too sudden and too great a change. They both react pretty badly and do some crappy things to each other, but I have to say, I like them. It’s a funny thing, I wanted to get all philosophical and consider how the loss of identity and purpose affected them, but I really think that it was mostly the loss of money that was the big problem. They didn’t get particularly grief stricken – they got pissed off. And I think that “pissed off” is an emotion that will give them the strength and drive that they need.
This is the kind of movie we here in northeast Ohio would call a “Cedar Lee movie” in reference to the movie theater that shows the artsy movies. Giorni e Nuvole is not exactly a feel good holiday blockbuster but it’s really good. There wasn’t a second of it that I thought, “Well that would never happen”, or “That just doesn’t ring true.” This is the third time I’ve watched it and I still find myself hoping that Michele gets jobs that he didn’t get the first two times I watched it. It just hits a little too close to home, and I know you aren’t supposed to be materialistic, but it’s a drag to lose your stuff like that. Would I rather be poor or have a cheating husband? I don’t want to play that game.