Movie 38/50 Il Primo Incarico

Il Primo Incarico   Giorgia Cecere            fiftyfiftyme category: Other
The title of this film seems as relevant to the film itself as to its lead character. The movie is Cecere’s first as director, and centres around a young woman who takes her first teaching assignment in a village in Puglia, 150 kilometres away from her family and from her yet-to-propose boyfriend. The film follows her adjustment to the remote rural setting and the challenge of being the only single woman in the community. This movie was very deliberately paced. That might be a euphemism for slow, but I think the director was going for thoughtful and measured. My problem with it was that there seemed to be very little of anything to be measured. Isabella Ragonese as Nena has to carry the entire film, yet her character does very little. She seems passive almost to the point of being a cypher, but for what, I couldn’t decide. She drifts into the job while waiting for her boyfriend to propose, then ends up marrying a local villager after her boyfriend takes up with another woman while she’s away. That’s almost the entire film.

Although this is Cecere’s first film as a director, she’s apparently a screenwriter. I would be interested to know if the movies she wrote for are as silence-rich as this one. The sparse dialogue seemed like it might be a mirror of the thinly-populated region the film was set in, words being as scarce as people.

Even though Nena is the central character, she really seems to come to life only with the children she’s teaching, and the scenes with them are the ones where something of the character’s personality shines through. The most interesting character development really involved the man she ended up marrying,. Although the marriage was one of social obligation for her, and a shield from community shame and pressure for both of them, her carpenter husband’s nature is gradually revealed through his tolerance of her passivity and his respect for her reserve. In the end, the film suggests that Nena got a clearer sense of which man in her life was more real and finally made an active decision about her life.

Whenever I watch languidly-paced, introspective films like this, I dread having to write up my reaction to them, because I’m no film buff. That’s why I was delighted to come across a reviewer who clearly felt similarly about the film. The reassurance I got from this review was more substantial than the film itself, I think. Not a bad film, and I am definitely going to look out for Ragonese after her handling of the almost empty role of Nena, but I feel like the discipline of watching this film has earned me the treat of finally seeing Cinema Paradiso  actually al cinema next week. That will be a lovely treat to wrap my mini Italian film festival, even if the no rewatch rule means it won’t count for fiftyfiftyme

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