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TURIN 2019

Review: Paradise

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- Blending drama and irony, Davide Del Degan’s first fiction film tells of a young murder witness’s disorientation as he makes the most of his new identity and tries to change his life

Review: Paradise
Vincenzo Nemolato in Paradise

Can the need to hide away become an opportunity to start a new life? It’s by reflecting on second chances and opportunities for redemption that Andrea Magnani (director of Easy [+see also:
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) and Davide Del Degan (co-author, alongside Thanos Anastopoulos, of the documentary The Last Resort [+see also:
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, screened in Cannes in 2016) have come up with the surprising work Paradise, presented in the After Hours section of the 37th Turin Film Festival. The first in the shoes of screenwriter and the second in the shoes of director, these two old friends have chosen to tell a tale of radical existential change by way of a very specific character: a young murder witness who finds himself having to move away and lead an undercover life; an ordinary man who makes an extraordinary decision and immediately suffers the unexpected consequences of this choice.

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From the Sicilian heat to the snowy Alps: after witnessing a murder carried out by the mafia and having decided to talk because it was the right thing to do, granita vendor Calogero (Vincenzo Nemolato, recently cast in Martin Eden [+see also:
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and 5 Is The Perfect Number [+see also:
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, and seen here in his first lead role) enters into a witness protection scheme and finds himself expedited to Sauris, a village lost among the cold Friuli mountains, with a new identity and a new home: the residence known as Paradise. Disoriented and sad (his wife, played by Selene Caramazza of Pure Hearts [+see also:
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, is pregnant, back home in Sicily, and no-one knows when she’ll be able to join him), Calogero lives with the fear of being recognised, and the fear that he’s becoming paranoid when he sees a mysterious man (Giovanni Calcagno) - who’s Sicilian, like him - turn up in the village. Due to an administrative error, the latter - who is none other than the killer whom Calogero denounced, who has since become a police informant himself - has been sent to the same mountain village in the North as Calogero, under police protection. But contrary to Calogero’s fears, the killer has no interest in revenge. Instead, a strange and somewhat ambiguous friendship begins to unfold between these two men.

“Here, I can be whoever I want”, the repentant killer confesses to Calogero, who is increasingly at the mercy of an inner conflict that sees him caught between affection for his new friend and the cynicism of his relatives. Blending thriller with comedy, Paradise is often pleasingly disorienting in the way that it seamlessly juxtaposes dramatic moments – such as the scene where Calogero sees his wife and meets his new-born daughter for the first time – with comparatively grotesque situations: chiefly, the lessons in the traditional Tyrolian Schuhplattler folk dance, which involves its participants slapping one another’s legs and feet (and also faces), led by the irresistible Padre Georg, played by Branko Završan. Also starring in the cast is Katarina Čas who plays a good-looking, single mum who helps Calogero find his place in the community.

Attentive to the finer details and plunging the viewer into a suggestive landscape, cut off from the rest of the world, Del Degan’s film is never predictable. Instead, it opens a window onto the gaze of an original and highly promising director, who loves to surprise his audience without losing a modicum of depth.

Paradise is an Italian-Slovenian co-production, produced by Pilgrim and A Atalanta, alongside Rai Cinema, with the support of MiBAC (the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities), the Slovenian Film Center, Viba Film, the Friuli Venezia Film Commission and the Lazio Region. The film will be released in Italy in the spring of 2020 via Fandango, who are also in charge of international sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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