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September 26, 2023



Emanuele Crialese - 2022
Music Box Films BD Region A

The title literally translates as "the immensity". That is easy enough to figure out. Inspired by the director's own life, especially his relationship with his mother, the immensity is the difficult work of living one's own life. Penelope Cruz plays the mother, Clara, an upper middle class housewife who finds ways of making life with her three children fun, and whose generosity of spirit allows room for her children to express themselves freely. The infrequently seen father, Felice, is a traditionalist, clamping down where he can on the idiosyncrasies of the family. The eldest child, in the early years of adolescence, lives as much of his life as a boy, although within the family he is still address with his female birth name. The film takes place in Rome in the early 1970s, roughly a decade after the economic boom years, which still left parts of the population untouched and in generational poverty.

The son is the proxy for the filmmaker who identified himself as a transgender last year. A side note about the name of the character - birth name is Adriana or Adri, but he names himself Andrea. Due to Andrea, a common first name for Italian men, being occasionally misgendered by those who only associate the name with women, the subtitles have the son's name rendered as Andrew. I choose to refer to the character as Andrea.

At a time when there was less understanding or language for gender dysphoria, Andrea is allowed to present himself as a boy in his appearance, save for one unhappy moment when he is forced to wear a dress for a family portrait. A glimpse indicates he is already wearing some kind of chest binder. Andrea is attracted to Sara, a girl of similar age, about 13, but is in a brief panic when it appears that Sara is about to initiate some kind of sexual relationship. Sara lives with the kind of community of working poor that were romanticized by Vittorio De Sica in the 1950s, living in shacks in field separated from Andrea's apartment by thick field of reeds. Clara forbids Andrea from going across the field, revealing a sense of class prejudice. A final shot of the shantytown cleared for a new apartment building is a reminder of the past being erased for what is suppose to be a promising future.

What Crialese means by immensity is also indicated in an interview - "To look within is to try to change individually, instead of wanting to change others. Breaking free from the addiction of wanting to dominate the other, resisting the compulsion of having, of appearing and perhaps trying to focus a little more on being. Abandoning classifications of gender, race and sexual orientation, because they do not define us, they actually limit us and create divisive barriers; we are what we are in perpetual change. Human nature is inherently unpredictable and immense."

Crialese likes to work with non-professional actors. Andrea is played by Luana Giuliani, chosen by Crialese who was scouting girls who played traditionally male sports. Giuliani races motorcycles in real life, making her life somewhat similar to that of the biker girls in the recent French film, Rodeo. Giuliani holds her own sharing the screen with the established powerhouse Penelope Cruz. Uncertain if she is a human or an alien from another planet, the shot that introduces Andrea almost convinces the viewer that she does have the ability to fly.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 26, 2023 07:21 AM