The Asteroids, a coming-of-age story about extinction
by Vassilis Economou
- LOCARNO 2017: Italian filmmaker Germano Maccioni explores the effects of the financial crisis on a young but desperate generation in his first fiction feature
The Italian director, screenwriter and actor, Germano Maccioni, has already had a long career working with Tatti Sanguineti, Giorgio Diritti, Franco Maresco and directing documentaries such as Lo Stato di Eccezione (2008) and Faithful to the Line [+see also:
film profile] (2013), mainly aimed at, and well-received by, a local audience. Seven years after his first foray into the world of fiction with his short film Natural Things (2010), Maccioni makes his feature-length film debut with The Asteroids [+see also:
interview: Germano Maccioni
film profile], a film that once again takes place in the area surrounding his hometown of Bologna. The world premiere of The Asteroids was screened as part of the International Competition section at the 70th Locarno Festival.
Three friends at the difficult age of 19, Pietro (Riccardo Frascari), Ivan (Nicolas Balotti) and Fabio - aka Cosmic (Alessandro Tarabelloni) – all trying to survive the difficulties of facing their personal issues, school, the future, and, more importantly, living in an industrial region of Italy that was once prosperous. Seriously hit by the financial crisis, the town seems more abandoned than ever as residents struggle to buy daily necessities. Pietro’s mother, Teresa (Chiara Caselli), is forced to pay the debts that her late husband left behind, while local pizza maker, Ugo (Pippo Delbono), becomes involved in petty crime. When news hits of an asteroid passing close to Earth with the possibility of a fatal strike, everything goes to pot.
The Asteroids is a coming-of-age drama focused on a life-changing financial crisis and the transformation of a new generation that must either adapt or go extinct. By setting everything in a desperate and empty environment, Maccioni drives his heroes to explore every aspect of their lives as quickly and as dangerously as possible. Pietro and Ivan must fight against the life that’s been set out for them and the doomed future that lies ahead. They must juggle emotions and feelings while facing the prospect of mass extinction due to an asteroid. They decide to take everything to the next level and embrace criminality. The immersive landscape of the Po Valley is not a place for heroes, or at least, not anymore, as nobody makes it out alive. The gang’s offbeat friend, Cosmic, probably knows this better than anyone considering his never-ending philosophical quest for hope.
The script, penned by Maccioni and Giovanni Galavotti, could be described as a fictionalised take on reality. Certainly most of the characters and events seem extremely familiar, as many recent releases have broached the exact same subject area. A striking example might be Small Homeland [+see also:
film profile] (2013) by another debut documentary filmmaker, Alessandro Rossetto, and set in the nearby industrial region of Veneto. It’s inevitable, then, that The Asteroids could easily be mistaken for yet another take on the same storyline, but the film has its merits.
The main protagonists are portrayed by amateur actors, which really gets across the feeling of reality that never exceeds the current events that the drama needs. The evolution of the narration is fairly subtle despite the expansion of the criminal aspect, creating a somewhat unbalanced result, which, after a time, feels slightly artificial. Maccioni’s regular collaborator and cinematographer, Marcello Dapporto, captures the vast landscapes of Emilia-Romagna’s flatland and the impressive radio observatory in Medicina in the best possible way. Everything stays local, even the original music is written by the famous Bolognese group Lo Stato Sociale. Is The Asteroids a parable or a real story? The fictional impact seems quite profound and goes past the usual superficiality that we encounter. But even the real crisis that Italy is experiencing feels more gradual than a sudden impact.
The Asteroids is an Italian co-production by Ivan Olgiati (Articolture), Emanuele Giussani (Ocean Productions) with RAI Cinema. Distributed by Istituto Luce Cinecittà, with the French company Stray Dogs responsible for international sales.
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