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GOCRITIC! Trieste 2019

GoCritic! Review: Wild Words

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- Our Austrian participant's first review looks at the first feature-length documentary by the Italian filmmaker Ana Shametaj

GoCritic! Review: Wild Words

Screening in the Premio Corso Salani section of the 30th Trieste Film Festival, Wild Words [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
is Italian director Ana Shametaj’s first feature film. It was produced by Jacopo Quadri, one of the most important Italian editors working today. For this project, Shametaj, who has a background in theatre, chose to follow a three-month theatre workshop for young actors. Filming took place in early 2017 in the hills of the Romagna region, where the Teatro Valdoca hosted the workshop.

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The twelve young actors are staying in a guesthouse surrounded by woods, and they rehearse in a small, adjacent, newly-built theatre. Immersed in nature, a unique experience awaits them in this isolated space. Joined by a poet and a director, these young men and women are part of a one-of a-kind workshop which sees them trying to connect life and art with the aim of producing a show at the end of the three-month programme. It is led by poet and dramaturg Mariangela Gualtieri, who provides the “wild words", and Cesare Ronconi, who serves as director.

The film follows the participants in all stages of the workshop, all together as a group but also individually, taking part in physical training and singing, as well as exercises in mindfulness, memory and silence. Nature becomes a space where they look for authenticity in their work, a place where they can lose themselves in order to find what it is they're looking for. Over the course of the workshop (and the film), each member will experience a pivotal moment for their personal development. Their inner turmoil will lead them to a state of heightened self-awareness, where they find themselves at the point of no return, a moment of realisation, of change. In one such scene, we see a young woman sitting on a chair outside of the guesthouse, alone, with a pair of scissors in her hands. Singing to herself, she leans forward and cuts off all of her long, dark hair. 

Without knowing that Wild Words is a documentary, audiences might perceive Shametaj’s film as fiction. The documentary form is not immediately apparent here, as there are no interviews, no voice-overs and no narrative titles. In the very first scene of the film, we see the group lying down on a pier over a lake, letting their heads fall backwards over the edge as they look, upside-down, at the pink-tinted sky above them.

The actors behave naturally in front of the camera throughout the film, never once acknowledging its presence. Shametaj is a mere observer, letting the words and images speak for themselves. While the original idea was for her to take part in the production of the final show, she ultimately made the conscious decision to step back and observe the participants instead with her camera. She also chose to omit the final, finished show to allow the film to fully focus on the production process itself. 

Visually, this is a beautiful directorial debut, featuring wide shots of nature and close-ups of the actors. The wintery fog surrounding both the theatre and the guesthouse creates a mystical atmosphere, which goes well with Gualtieri's poetry. Music plays a vital role in the film too, with the workshop participants often seen singing, humming and playing instruments.

In order to create a homogeneous whole, Shametaj combines Gualtieri’s words (inspired by and written for each individual participant, drawing out their unique traits) with images of nature, which almost becomes another character itself. With the strong emotional structure which is afforded by the actors, and the poetry which flows throughout the film, Wild Words is a highly accomplished fusion of life and art.

This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.

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