The Hand of God
Cast: Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert, Luisa Ranieri, Renato Carpentieri, Massimiliano Gallo, Betti Pedrazzi
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Italian movie maestro Paolo Sorrentino has long entertained and wowed worldwide cinemagoers through such films as Il Divo, This Must Be The Place, The Great Beauty and Loro. His work is marked by beautiful composition, sublime editing, and exquisite design, all of which operate in harmony to considerable dramatic effect. The spectacle, as enjoyable as it may be, always contains more than an element of gravitas at its core. Now, in The Hand Of God, Sorrentino establishes a more serious tone, still embracing his considerable cinematic skill. The result is a profound tale, autobiographical in nature, and a labour of love, an elegy of innocence lost and a praise of triumphant vocation found. Filippo Scotti plays the teenager Fabietto Schisa (called Fabié by family and friends). It’s the mid-1980s in Naples, and he lives a carefree life in the company of his happy-go-lucky parents and older brother. They’re not rich, but well-off enough to be able to afford a home by the shore to supplement their flat in town. They, and the extended relatives, gather frequently for boisterous reunions, made slightly unsettling by the encroaching mental illness of Fabié’s stunning and lascivious Aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri) whom all the men ogle, especially since she enjoys being naked. The film opens with Patrizia, following an opening quote from Argentinian footballer Diego Maradona (whom the Naples soccer team desperately wants to sign) that leads into a helicopter tracking shot towards the bustling seaside metropolis. We land on a car, which contains San Gennaro, patron of the city. In one of Sorrentino’s patented bouts of fantastical mise-en-scène, the long-dead saint offers Patrizia, on her way home, a ride, though he first takes her on an adventure meant to activate her apparently sterile womb. By the time she arrives home, her husband is furious, accusing her of promiscuous behaviour. Fabietto and his parents arrive just in time to witness the ugly aftermath. But it’s not all jealousy and violence. Mum (Teresa Saponangelo) and Dad (Toni Servillo) share genuine love and affection, even if we later discover a sad secret about their marriage.
Brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert) glumly accepts his increasingly failed dreams of becoming an actor. A film is being shot in the town, and although Fabié doesn’t quite yet know what he wants to do, he is drawn to the evocative film set. He also wants to find a girl and his father tells him to get it out of the way, no matter with whom. And then the hand of God does strike, in the form of a random tragedy, ripped from Sorrentino’s own past, that changes everything. Devastating as the consequences seem, life must go on, and in the coping, Fabié begins to find his way and follows his dad’s earlier advice). All of this is assembled with Sorrentino’s usual care as we move into the more sober tone of the second half. In addition, there are some wild adventures involving a cigarette smuggler and an aging baroness – and of course Maradona.