Monday, 5 November 2012

LFF: Family Matters...(pt3)

A low key drama speaks volumes about the difficulties of life lived under Mafiosi's control  in The Interval, which is the focus of Family Matters part 3.


Italian documentary maker Leonardo di Costanzo makes his fictional feature début with the engrossing, understated crime drama, The Interval, a chamber piece focussing on two teenagers beholden to the crime families that dominate Naples. Where Matteo Garrone's critically acclaimed Gomorrah (2008) explored similar territory in sprawling, violent fashion, di Costanzo opts for a smaller scale, dialogue driven narrative that sucks the viewer in as the initially fractious relationship between the central protagonists softens into understanding and mutual respect.

The straightforward plot sees unprepossessing Salvatore (Alessio Gallo), an overweight teen who ekes out a living selling ice creams with his father, co-erced by local gang members into keeping watch over the sparky Veronica (Francesca Riso). Brought to an abandoned asylum, Veronica has fallen foul of her local crime family for an undisclosed indiscretion, with Salvatore charged with keeping her there until her punishment is decided. Initially wary and hostile respectively, Salvatore and Veronica circle each other in mutual distrust, both wishing to be elsewhere, both knowing that the decision isn't their's to make. Freedom and fate being out of their hands is key to di Costanzo's narrative, the viewer may be taken into a micro-world but the dominant macro-world that surrounds Salvatore and Veronica is never far from either their or our minds.

It's to di Costanzo's credit that what is a bare bones narrative, shorn of the violence and testosterone heavy machismo usually associated with Mafia movies, is so engrossing. The thawing of tensions between Salvatore and Veronica is handled deftly. As they come to realise they are both at the mercy of outside forces a convincing, fledgling relationship builds between the pair. While exploring the abandoned asylum and its grounds, the discovery of a small boat, the photo of a suicide victim and a bitch and her puppies by the pair allows di Constanzo to impart the story with metaphorical weight. Dreams of escape, the spectre of death and family ties (biological and environmental) are all explored subtly via the part childlike, part streetwise conversations Salvatore and Veronica engage in.

Quiet yet intense, closeted yet far reaching, The Interval is an intelligent, unforced representation of lives manipulated by tradition, crime and psycho-geography. The abandoned, decrepit asylum which plays host to the teenagers' meeting providing a stark metaphor for the city it stands in.

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