Nanni Moretti frequently gets called the Italian Woody Allen, and it’s not hard to see why. He is the writer, director and star of his own films, and, like Allen, his on-screen persona seemingly bears a close resemblance to his off-screen self.
And, like Allen he’s also ventured into more dramatic territory as his career has progressed, winning the Palme d’Or in 2001 for his moving film about a family struggling with grief after the sudden death of a child, The Son’s Room.
His latest film, however, doesn’t find Moretti in the director’s chair and he’s not playing himself, though his character does display certain familiar traits, which makes one scene late in the movie all the more shocking.
No, the perceptive and moving Quiet Chaos, based on a best-selling book by Sandro Veronesi, sees Moretti in the role of a successful TV executive, Pietro Paladini, who develops a highly individual strategy for coming to terms with loss.
At the start of the movie, Pietro saves a woman from drowning in the sea, and then returns home from the beach to discover that his wife has suddenly dropped dead on the lawn. Shortly after the funeral, he takes his 10-year-old daughter (Blu Yoshimi) to school on the first day of term and decides on the spur of the moment to wait for her outside the school rather than going to work.
He does the same the following day, and the days after that, hanging out in a nearby park, putting his life on hold as he clings to his role as protective father.
Rather than cutting himself off, however, his odd regime actually opens him up to life. He strikes up tentative rapports with some of the park’s regular passers-by (including a boy with Down’s syndrome and a stunningly beautiful dog walker played by supermodel Kasia Smutniak), receives visits from various family members (including his neurotic sister-in-law, played by Valeria Golino) and from a stream of anxious work colleagues.
Pietro, the bereaved husband, seems the only calm person around, but below the surface, there’s evidently a great deal of turbulence.
The idea of pent-up emotions waiting for release justifies, to my mind, the shocking scene alluded to above, when Pietro and the woman he earlier saved (Isabella Ferrari) enjoy a passionate one-night stand. Their lovemaking is uncomfortably explicit and sits uneasily with the mood of the rest of the film, which is gently humorous and wry. I can see why director Antonello Grimaldi put the episode in, but seeing Moretti with his pants down is unsettling all the same.
Try thinking of Woody Allen in a similar situation and you’ll know just what I mean.
(Released 2nd March)