Pure Hearts: Two parallel worlds collide
by Camillo De Marco
- CANNES 2017: With his first piece, young director Roberto De Paolis observes young people from small working-class suburbs, with the same poetry as Claudio Giovannesi’s films
"Blessed be the pure of heart because they shall see God" explains Don Luca (Stefano Fresi) as he quotes from the Sermon on the Mount. This pugnacious priest from the Roman suburbs is speaking to a group of young people preparing to “promise” to remain chaste until they are married. The group also includes almost 18-year-old Alice (Selene Caramazza), the female protagonist of Pure Hearts [+see also:
interview: Roberto De Paolis
film profile], which has been selected for Directors’ Fortnight at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. Her mother Marta (Barbora Bobulova) – a single woman who we sense has been subjected to a life of trickery and abandonment – is a steadfast churchgoer, and very uncompromising with her daughter. She has just confiscated her mobile phone following a “scandalous” exchange of text messages between her and a classmate of hers. It is when she goes to acquire a new phone in secret that Alice meets Stefano for the first time, played by Simone Liberati (who physically resembles a sort of James Franco from the suburbs).
Stefano is what they call a chav in Rome, or rather someone from the urban or suburban working-class suburbs who behaves in an uncouth manner and uses copious amounts of dialect. Straight away, young director Roberto De Paolis (the son of Valerio, who is distributing the film with Cinema), shows us two neighbouring but very different worlds in parallel. In the first are the pure of heart who go to school, do honest jobs, engage in volunteer work and toe the line, exactly as Don Luca preaches. The other world is home to the wild of heart, Stefano’s background: full of unemployed people characterised by their high-powered motorbikes, they live off of drug dealing and occasional robberies. Stefano has grown up and swum in these murky waters. But in spite of everything he is also pure of heart. He looks for an honest job and finds it as a parking attendant at a supermarket, abused and threatened by the gypsies in the adjacent field. They’re the same nomads that Marta and Alice bring presents and cast-offs for. When his parents are evicted, Stefano rushes to their aid. He and Alice cross paths once again, and their hormones get the better of the latter’s promise to stay a virgin. Two social backgrounds, one of violence and the other of acceptance and self-protection, merge and identify with one another. Because, as first Kaj Nielsen then Eugenio Lecaldano taught us, there can be ethics without religion, and even without God we can distinguish between good and evil, the righteous and the unrighteous, the virtuous and the immoral.
The proximity of the film to the multi-award-winning Worldly Girl [+see also:
interview: Marco Danieli
film profile] by Marco Danieli, a film from 2016, is pretty clear. But just as that film doesn’t denounce Jehovah’s witnesses, Pure Hearts is a realistic coming-of-age account told through a passionate love story. Like Danieli, this is 37-year-old De Paolis’ debut feature film, which follows two short films screened at the Venice Film Festival and various video-art pieces. And his portrayal of young men and women, of the stone and pure hearts of those from the working-class suburbs, is reminiscent of the crude Pasolinian poetry of Alì Blue Eyes [+see also:
interview: Claudio Giovannesi
film profile] and Fiore [+see also:
Q&A: Claudio Giovannesi
film profile] by Claudio Giovannesi. And Selene Caramazza and Simone Liberati, both in their debut performance as the leads in a feature film here, give tangible substance to their characters.
With this film, production company Young Films, which was founded by the director with the expert Carla Altieri, continues with its mission to support independent quality films in Italy and Europe. The Match Factory is selling the film on the international market.
(Translated from Italian)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.