Ever wanted to watch a ghost story that makes you smile?
Magnificent Presence (or Magnifica Presenza in its native language) is an award winning* quirky Italian comedy centred on Pietro, a struggling actor in his late twenties who, while attempting to advance his career and deal with his problematic personal life, finds he has rented an apartment filled with ghosts.
Magnificent Presence, image courtesy of Lavazza Italian Film Festival.
The story opens with Pietro deciding to rent an old and run down apartment, much to the horror and disappointment of his cousin and confidante Maria. The state of his accommodation does not bother Pietro, who only sees possibilities and opportunity in branching out on his own. However, it soon becomes clear Pietro's perceptions are not always accurate, evidenced by his meeting with would-be partner Massimo, to whom Pietro is practically devoted.
While Pietro's acting dreams and personal life remain stagnant, he is having strange encounters with ghosts, whom he believes to be illegal swatters living in his home. After a series of hilarious encounters, Pietro eventually develops a strange friendship of sorts with his guests, who believe the year is still 1943 and that World War II is raging on outside. The ghosts themselves are a vaudeville troupe of performers, who are searching for the last member of their company.
As Pietro gradually grows more comfortable with his unlikely roommates, he agrees to help them find their long-lost member. However when he digs deeper into their situation, he soon realises that all is not as it seems, with a suspicious lack of information surrounding them, raising a multitude of questions and providing precious few answers. Meanwhile, Maria is growing ever more concerned for her cousin as he seemingly retreats into solitude.
The scares in Magnificent Presence are played for laughs and are not truly designed to frighten viewers. However, for all its comedic elements, there is substantial depth to the story, with the mystery surrounding the ghosts' backstories proving an intriguing tale in its own right. The film also touches on the events of the war, without being weighed down by them. Viewers will also enjoy the banter between Pietro and Maria, who have an amusingly quirky relationship.
As an Italian film set in Rome, Magnificent Presence avoids the tourist landmarks in its scenery. However do not let this deter you from seeing the film, as the settings on display provide fantastic street views, glimpses of the night skyline and classic architecture.
Additionally, each of the actors gives an impressive performance, making the most of the range of emotions their characters experience. As Pietro, Elio Germano displays his excellent comic timing and the vulnerability required to perfectly portray the slightly down on his luck leading character.
Overall, Magnificent Presence is a pleasantly distinctive comedy with intrigue thrown in for good measure. Not exactly your average comedy, the film takes twists and turns while remaining steadfastly focused on its central character. All in all, it is definitely one to watch.
Another angle: Simply put, Magnificent Presence is a story where a man lives with a troupe of 1940s styled vaudeville performer ghosts. Therefore it would be suffice to say that suspending your disbelief is paramount to enjoying the film. If you are unsure whether or not you can do that, perhaps unlike the lead character, you will want to avoid any ghostly encounters.
*Magnificent Presence won Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Special Prize awards at the 2012 Italian Golden Globes and the Audience Award (In Competition) at the 2012 Moscow International Film Festival.