Just when I’m thinking that Italians might be making too many films about “gli anni di piombo” (years of lead – period of terrorism in Italy from the 60s to the 80s), along comes Susanna Nicchiarelli with a fresh approach and her new movie La Scoperta Dell’Alba with Margherita Buy.
I don’t mean to be insensitive to the need to examine the circumstances and remember the victims of that very tragic time when the Red Brigades and other groups were terrorizing the country with murders, kidnappings and robberies, but critics have complaints about many of them. Some say they tell the same story that everybody already knows over and over, that they are too much like documentaries and have need of a story. Nicchiarelli heard the criticisms and did something about it.
In La Scoperta Dell’Alba, it’s Rome, 1981, and college professor Mario Tessandori is shot in broad daylight at school and dies in the arms of his best friend, Lucio Astengo. Within weeks, Lucio disappears into thin air, leaving behind a wife and two daughters.
Fast forward 30 years and Lucio’s wife has died, and the daughters, Caterina, played by Buy and Barbara, played by Nicchiarelli herself are grown up and selling the family’s beach house.Caterina, packing away boxes of things from their childhood, finds that an old rotary phone there that not only still works, but has a dial tone; impossible, because the service has been cut off. She whimsically calls her family’s old telephone number in Rome and someone answers; a young girl’s voice on the other end is very familiar.
Nicchiarelli is on to something but missed, ever so slightly, the opportunity to tell an exciting story. Had she showed a little more restraint, let it unfold more naturally, and not rushed into the mystery of the rotary phone, it would have seemed, at the same time, more realistic and more fantastical. It’s as if the young director was so anxious to get to the cool part of the story that she forgot the audience’s need for a little foreplay first. The audience must take a leap of imagination already, so if we are to imagine this all happening, at least the pretense of it should have been a little more logical. There should be more leading up to the discoveries and more time to do a little guessing on our own.
But she’s young, shows promise and with experience will surely have a lot to offer. Choosing Margherita Buy for the protagonist was a show of excellent judgment, in any case.