JDIFF 2012 Discovery Cinema Review: A Quiet Life [Una Vita Tranquilla]

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Discovery: A Quiet Life [Una Vita Tranquilla]

Wednesday, 22nd February, 8:10pm, Light House

Claudio Cupellini’s beautifully paced thriller A Quiet Life (2010) is not a mob movie.

Yes, the film glimpses at the shady reality of the Italian mafia but above that it looks intensely at a man’s fight for survival and his complex relationships with those closest to him.

Two decades after faking his own death to escape life with the Neapolitan mafia, Rosario (Toni Servillo), has set up a picture perfect life for himself in Frankfurt, Germany. He has a beautiful wife, a loving son and a successful hotel to run. However, when the young Italian Diego (Marco D’Amore) arrives on his doorstep with his boorish companion Edoardo (Francesco Di Leva) in tow, it isn’t long before the secrets of Rosario’s past start to unfold.

By shunning over-the-top mob movie clichés, the suspense in this tense thriller comes not from car chases and shoot-outs but from the sheer anguish of a man hiding a dark secret.

The critically acclaimed Servillo (Il Divo, Gomorrah) portrays this anguish with remarkable intensity, layer upon layer of emotion playing out on his face in almost every scene.

Sevillo moves with such fluidity from personas (jovial boss, loving family man, cold-blooded killer) that we are left wondering if we, like his own family, know him at all.

At times, close-ups of Rosario’s grimacing and weathered face enhanced by an expertly executed soundtrack and sharp editing leave you breathless.

The way in which the threat of violence simmers behind Rosario’s mild-mannered facade is enough to set the viewer on the edge. Mirroring this, the director only resorts to violence when vital to the plot but it is unnervingly ever present and poised to erupt – from the erratic behaviour of the coke-snorting Edoardo to the arty close-up of a brewing coffee pot on the point of boiling over.

Rosario’s frantic bid to kill off his violent past and preserve his future is shrewdly symbolised throughout – he hunts wild boar and puts mercury-studded nails into trees in his hotel’s backyard so that they will die and he can put up a biergarten where they’re still standing

Sadly, the director was unavailable for the Q&A due to take place after the screening. Perhaps Cupellini’s absence was itself a manufactured metaphor for his protagonist’s own disappearance.  Overreaching? Probably, however it was a shame none-the-less to miss spending a while in the company of the creator of such a gripping gaze at love, death and identity.

Carmen Bryce

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