Equilibrium: Beyond fear
by Vittoria Scarpa
- VENICE 2017: Vincenzo Marra presents his fourth fiction film, which documents the daily struggle of a priest in a difficult region of Italy, the Neapolitan Terra dei fuochi or “Land of Fire”
A gun at the neck of a priest: the shocking poster image for Vincenzo Marra's new film, Equilibrium [+see also:
interview: Vincenzo Marra
film profile], competing at the 14th Giornate degli Autori. After attending with The Session is Open in 2006, The Triplet in 2012 and First Light [+see also:
interview: Vincenzo Marra
film profile] in 2016, the Neapolitan filmmaker, who dabbles in both documentary and fiction, is due to return for the fourth time to compete in this section, which runs parallel with and independently to Venice Film Festival. Marra is returning with Equilibrium, the tale of a priest working in a difficult region of Italy who would like to help sort out the troubles faced by the local area, but who finds himself seriously risking his life in the process.
Keeping the peace: the principle followed by Don Giuseppe (a spot-on performance from a solemn Mimmo Borrelli), a priest in Campania, who after working as a missionary in Africa, returns to a small diocese in his hometown in the infamous Neapolitan “Terra dei Fuochi”. Don Giuseppe is recommended by the bishop (Paolo Sassanelli) who granted him the transfer (requested by Don Giuseppe himself as a remedy for a crisis of faith), as well as Don Antonio (Roberto Del Gaudio) who he is due to replace and who has been fighting a battle against the issue of toxic waste, for which he is loved and respected by all. However, as Don Giuseppe spends more time in the area, he soon realises that, despite being both important and legitimate, Don Antonio’s battle forced him to compromise on a number of issues that are remain unresolved, including an issue regarding the abuse of a little girl, to which the priest apparently turned a blind eye for the good of the community.
But should Don Giuseppe intervene or compromise? Should he save the individual or protect the community? The film sets the scene for an ideological and spiritual clash between the two priests and the consequences of their different outlooks on life, with the film also focusing on the daily drama of Don Giuseppe and the 'rubber walls' he must encounter. Thanks to the exclusive use of long takes, Marra attaches himself to Don Giuseppe, who is present from the very first to the very last scene, and who we follow as he visits homes and hospitals where he brings relief and comfort as he struggles to give small children somewhere to play ("the children are my priority"), but also in his approach to the local underworld, with which he becomes increasingly uncomfortable.
Almost Christ-like in his worthiness of martyrdom, the protagonist overcomes fear and does not fold to pressure, which is monumental. But left alone, abandoned by all, in a lost land that is held together by a very precarious equilibrium, Don Giuseppe's mission becomes increasingly impossible. "I just wanted to be a good priest" is a phrase that encapsulates the essence of his character and integrity. A sober, composed drama, the film began as a documentary and, due to the increasing pressure felt by the director and the obstacles encountered in the local area, was forced to evolve into something else, a fiction feature film that blurs the lines of truth, and leaves the audience with many pressing questions.
Equilibrium was produced by Cinemaundici and Lama Film with Rai Cinema and Ela Film. The film is due to be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures Italy from 21 September. Intramovies is responsible for international sales.
(Translated from Italian)
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