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A Castle in Italy - Film Review

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by Fiona Anderson (subscribe)
A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published April 16th 2014
Cracks in the Castle Wall
This film was billed as 'the French-Italian hit comedy, A Castle In Italy'. For a comedy, it's pretty hard-edged in places, almost disturbing. I'd categorise it as a drama fringed with humour. The movie is a 'semi-autobiographical' work of Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, who stars in, directs, and was a co-screenwriter for, the film. Her former partner Louis Garrel plays a major role in the film, as does her mother (who also plays her mother in the film), Marisa Borini.

Early in the film we see Louise (played by Bruni-Tedeschi) running through a forest on her way to catch a train. She chances upon actor Nathan (Garrel), a younger and very attractive man, who is shooting a film nearby. Nathan recognises Louise from her former career as a screen actor, and makes advances towards her, which she resists. Undeterred, he presses his phone number and address on to her as she walks off.

The Castle in Italy
Louise (played by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi)

When she returns home some days later, Nathan is sitting outside, waiting for her. Rather unnerved about how he located her address, she again brushes him off. Louise, at 43 years of age, is aware of a ticking biological clock. It seems this is what drives her to follow up with Nathan, turning up later at his apartment. While Nathan is keen and willing to have a fun relationship with Louise, he soon finds himself getting dragged into something deeper as she relentlessly pursues her desire to have a baby. Unsurprisingly, this creates tension between the two which shapes their relationship throughout the film.

Louise and Nathan
Louise and Nathan

Another main theme running through the film is that of Louise's ailing brother Ludovic (Filippo Tim), whose health we see declining throughout the movie. Louise has a close relationship with her brother; at times it seems unconventionally close although this is not overtly stated or explored.

Running almost in parallel with Ludovic's decline is the deteriorating state of the family's finances, crippled by tax bills and the mounting costs of maintaining their castle in Italy - an inheritance from Louise and Ludovik's rich industrialist father. Despite his ill health, Ludovic strongly resists suggestions that some of the family's valuable art pieces, or the castle itself, should be sold to keep the family solvent.

There is also Louise's struggle with her faith; several times she is challenged by the Catholic church about her belief. In one scene this leads to a rather farcical encounter with some nuns.

Xavier Beauvois (Serge) makes an appearance as the unlikeable, grasping former close friend of the family, who clearly feels the family owes him a financial debt. Overall, this storyline did not seem to add substance to the film.

This film received audience acclaim at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival; it has been suggested that this was because it was the only competing film directed by a woman, and also that it laid bare some aspects of Bruni-Tedeschi's life.

Overall, I didn't particularly enjoy this film. I have to wonder whether Bruni-Tedeschi's closeness to the subject matter meant that she lost the objectivity in directing the film that may have helped to tighten its production.

See it for an insight into bourgeois life, some lovely scenery and some interesting symbolism. But also expect some rather inconsistent acting and a storyline that's not quite cohesive.

My favourite line in the film - Louise's explanation of why she gave up acting: 'I had to make room in my life for life'.

Running time: 103 minutes.
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Why? For an insight into the life of a wealthy French family which, you soon realise, faces challenges that would be familiar to many of us.
When: Opens 8th May 2014
Cost: Varies
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