Marco Bellocchio’s historic drama at Cannes – The Hollywood Reporter

Marco Bellocchio’s historic drama at Cannes – The Hollywood Reporter

At 83, Italian author Marco Bellocchio has been on a hot streak in recent years, with the success both at home and abroad of his 2019 epic about the Sicilian Mafia, The traitorand his very first TV mini-series, Exterior, Nightplaying well throughout Europe.

His last feature film — the 31st in a prolific career that began at age 24 with his breakout drama, Fists in the pocket – probably isn’t his greatest, but it’s hardly a bashing in a filmography filled with memorable works, including other recent films like Earn And Hello, night.


The essential

History plays better than history.

Place: Cannes Film Festival (Competition)
Discard: Enea Sala, Leonardo Maltese, Paolo Pierobon, Fausto Russo Alesi, Barbara Ronchi
Director: Marc Bellocchio
Screenwriters: Marco Bellocchio, Susanna Nicchiarelli

2 hours 5 mins

Removal (Kidnapped), a period piece about a Jewish boy taken from his family to live in the Vatican in 1858, may not live up to those titles, but it’s still an engaging and somewhat fascinating film, telling a true story that probes historic Italian anti-Semitism and the follies of the Catholic Church.

Filled with the director’s typical operatic flourishes – cameras floating down hallways or above balconies as characters race toward disaster, emotional crescendos set to a racing score by Fabio Massimo Capogrosso – it can also be a rather stuffy affair, with plenty of dramatic speech and religious symbolism that ranges from satirical to heavy-handed. What seems to fascinate Bellocchio the most in the story are not really the characters, who appear as stereotypes whether they are Jews or Catholics, but what she says about a time when the very reactionary Pope Pius IX began to lose power to the newly founded Kingdom of Italy.

Stuck in the middle of this struggle is the sad story of 6-year-old Edgardo Mortara (played by Enea Sala, then Leonardo Maltese), one of the many children of Solomone “Momola” Mortara (Fausto Russo Alesi) and his wife. , Marianna (Barbara Ronchi), a Jewish couple living comfortably among the Bolognese bourgeoisie. This solace quickly comes to an end when local priest and inquisitor Feletti (Fabrizio Gifuni) asks the soldiers to take little Edgardo away, explaining that the child was secretly baptized by the family’s maid. The only way for the couple to get it back is to convert to Catholicism, which they refuse to do.

Written by Bellocchio and Susanna Nicchiarelli, who drew inspiration from a book about the case by Daniele Scalise, the screenplay follows Edgardo’s long and traumatic journey from the hands of his family to those of Pius IX (a very evil Paolo Pierobon ), which places him in the Vatican with other Jewish boys who are forced to learn catechism and transform themselves into obedient Catholics. Back in Bologna, Momola does everything he can to get his child back, speaking to the local and international press, which caricatures the pope as a kidnapping monster, and enlists rabbis and Jewish organizations to support his claims.

We can not” the pope responds each time, which is essentially Latin for “go to hell”, and which leads to Edgardo being completely indoctrinated in the church while his father remains helpless and his mother begins to lose his mind. Bellocchio paints these sequences in broad strokes, Ronchi exaggerating a bit as a grieving Jewish mother who will never let go of her baby boy, even if his behavior only makes things worse.

There is little subtlety in Removal, but such was perhaps the tumultuous time the film is set in – particularly after the story crosses into the 1860s, when the Papal States, which were ruled by the church, were conquered by an Italian army that left little ground to the pope. stand outside the Vatican. Backed into a corner but refusing to relinquish any control, including that over the now fully Catholic Edgardo, Pierobon (Human capital) plays Pope IX as a conservative, delusional fanatic whose lust for power and fear of Jews — exemplified in a mindless nightmare of circumcision — drive him to extreme positions.

There are memorable moments where the film captures the confusion Edgardo felt as he was forced to worship a different god, and one he repeatedly learns was killed by Jews like his family. In a rather exaggerated scene, the boy climbs on a giant statue of Jesus to remove the iron spikes from his arms and feet, hoping to save his new idol. Other scenes revel in the hypocrisy of a church that essentially washes Italian youth, teaching them piety while psychologically torturing them at the same time. Prayer sequences within the observant house of Mortara and the upper Vatican are often interspersed, though Bellochio tries to differentiate between the two, contrasting the loving and rather modest family with a powerful institution that is about to s ‘collapse.

By the time this happens, Edgardo may be lost both to his parents and to Judaism forever, and Removal doesn’t exactly end on a hopeful note, even if Pius IX does get something out of a reward. As Bellocchio reveals, the Vatican lost much of its territory after 1870 but remained powerful enough to dominate the Italian population, including young men who were not even Catholic to begin with. According to an interview with the director, the film’s working title was Conversionand we wonder at the end if Edgardo’s conversion, though forced upon him, has become too hard to resist.

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