By Marco Zarrelli

With Fabrizio Coniglio, Tullia Daniele, Antonio Catania, Marta Iacopini, Gabriella Casali, Roberto della Casa, Edoardo Sala

Italy | 2016 | 140

The main character of the story is Padre Innocenzo, a 39 year-old Cistercian monk who observes an austere lifestyle and is a ceramist of the abbey where he lives. Besides having a good voice and working with the confreres, he is sometimes requested by other churches to sing sacred music in Latin. The transfer of the parish priest of the village involves new commitments for the monk (music celebrations, blessing of houses, confessions of the faithful, church maintenance), which divert him from his rarefied loneliness, to his great disappointment.

The monk comes face to face with the complexity of community life, which in the past he had carefully avoided (relatives included), but which he can no longer circumvent. He will become more and more aware of his inadequacy until the willingness of a relative (failed artisan) to commit suicide. This upsets him to the point of definitively crumbling all his certainties. This will lead him to a radical redefinition of his own identity as man and a man of faith. This evolution occurs while remaining firmly within his choice of a life dedicated to faith.

This film is not intended to be a documentary, nor a film of denunciation. The film does not want to show the war of an entrepreneur against bureaucracy, or the struggle for the survival of a craftsman against the laws of global competition. All this (and more) is in the film, but not in the external chronicle, but in the reflections that all this has on the consciences and souls of individuals. Padre Innocenzo (who is not a journalist or public official) has to deal with the soul of people. With all the misery and nobility that dwells in it (often living together).
Therefore, the often aberrant mechanisms of today’s society are preferably symbolized or evoked by the characters. This happens from an existential, non-sociological angle. It follows that this is not a film in which external action (in the sense of narrative or plot) is particularly relevant. At the same time, it is far from being “umbilical” or “intimate”.

The (very concrete) situations with which Padre Innocenzo must measure himself in his unprecedented condition of “man among men” are numerous, but each one adds a tile to the interior mosaic that goes through laboriously composing in his soul and character. And perhaps the hell season that the monk crosses throughout the film doesn’t end with a defeat (as it might seem), but a beneficial illumination. What Padre Innocenzo finds himself living in the course of the film does not lead him to obvious denials of faith or easy surrogates, but to a radical rethinking of himself, as man and as a man of faith. Is your faith really so well established? Is it really consistent with the authentic Gospel message? His faith does not give in, but requires a fundamental revision. That does not end with the film, because an individual does not change in weeks or months. It is a long and rough road, with leaps forward and steps backwards. But the stimuli that emerge allows us to have a glimpse of the elements of future development. A future that has already begun.

And on another plane: can an artist become alienated from the outside world? Can his art really dig deep into the abyss of the soul by pure abstraction, without a deep knowledge of man and the reality in which he lives? Can you really know yourself if not through others? More than one situation alludes to this subject. And here, by the way, is also a general comment about the characters and situations of the film. Every character and every situation has a symbolic nuance. Everything remains in the ambit of plausibility (almost everything, if we want to exclude the “visions” of the monk); but reality must always give rise to a supra-real ambiguity, not in a clearly expressionist sense, but on a subliminal level, that is to say: unconscious echoes, underground resonances. Otherwise, cinema is no longer “cinematographic” (i. e. poetic writing for moving images), but chronicle, reportage.

In this context, the atmosphere of the rooms and places objectified the interior journey of the monk. The mystical vertigo of Renaissance sacred music does the rest: not just a musical commentary, but a real character. Adherence to the project by the male choir “Odhecaton” (world famous ensemble, directed by Prof. Paolo Da Col), allows the film to take advantage of the incomparable interpretations that this choir has given – and gives – of the Renaissance Sacred Music (Josquin des Prez in primis).

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