Caina: J'accuse, Europe!
by Vladan Petkovic
- Italian director Stefano Amatucci's first film is a bleak, dystopian condemnation of the hypocritical perversion that Europe has turned itself into
Italian director Stefano Amatucci's Caina [+see also:
interview: Stefano Amatucci
film profile] encountered decidedly negative reactions after its world premiere in the Tallinn Black Nights First Feature Competition. Based on a novel by script co-writer Davide Morganti, which was first turned into a theatre play, the film features an easy-to-hate heroine, theatrical mise-en-scene and dialogue, as well as unexpectedly fast editing. So it perhaps comes as no surprise that unprepared connoisseurs of European arthouse cinema were put off by this film, which actually very efficiently condemns European society as the monster it has turned into.
Caina is set in a near, dystopian future, where the titular character makes a living out of collecting the bodies of refugees washed up on the shore of Italy, which are later used to make cement. Caina (the marvellously intense Luisa Amatucci) is a former killer for hire, who believes in racial purity and spews out xenophobic insults, even at the Catholic priest who preaches love and tolerance in this atmosphere. But there are no good guys in the film: right after expressing his disgust at Caina's hatred, he walks over the church floor that has just been scrubbed by a woman of dark skin. "Unlike in your country, we have enough water here. Just wash it again," he tells her.
Caina is under double pressure, as besides the regulations requiring her to take on an assistant (and only "niggers" are offered) and forcing her to make a checklist stating the bodies' origin and condition, there is some stiff competition: a group of illegal body hunters, amongst them registered foreigners from the Middle East and Africa. One of them will, almost against her will, become her assistant, giving a chance for the shreds of humanness perhaps still left in her to surface.
The film's mise-en-scene really belongs more to theatre: side scenes that would, in traditional cinema, be edited separately are put into the same shot, so one gets the feeling of a Shakespeare play where side characters comment on the main action from the corner of the stage. The dialogues are also theatrical: they are more like declamations of pre-written text than natural discussions. But all this completely fits the theme. Today's Europe is like a 19th-century stage where demagogues and tyrants are free to scream their hateful misconceptions, as the upper-class parterre audience applauds the inhuman – but for them agreeable – ideas, and les enfants du paradis in the galleries beg for bread.
In Caina, the bodies of refugees are used to make cement, which makes walls stronger. And this is exactly what the walls of Fortress Europe have been built on through the centuries: the dead bodies of non-Europeans in colonies on other continents. This fortress protects the "sophisticated, tolerant and enlightened" society we now see crumbling down on itself. With its unusually fast-paced editing by Paco Centomani, Caina demands constant attention from the viewer, as if it is asking us to wake up from the nightmare we have created for ourselves.
Caina is a co-production by Italian companies Déjà vu and Movieland.
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