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Review: Caos calmo

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Moretti under the volcano


- Quiet chaos is pain that is not manifested externally, says Nanni Moretti, the star of this drama directed by Antonello Grimaldi, in competition at the Berlinale

Quiet chaos is pain that is not manifested externally, a volcano that does not erupt, says Nanni Moretti, the unequivocal star of this drama directed by Antonello Grimaldi, in competition at the Berlinale.

The actor-director is at the centre of a story based on Sandro Veronesi’s eponymous bestseller, notably simplified for the screenplay (written by Moretti, Laura Paolucci and Francesco Piccolo). Television network executive Pietro Paladini (Moretti) spends his days in a park in front of his daughter’s school, waiting for her to come out at the end of the day.

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Pietro lost his wife Lara unexpectedly over the summer, while he was at the beach bravely saving another woman (Isabella Ferrari) from drowning. Now he and his daughter are gripped by an unnatural serenity, and he experiences his mourning as quiet chaos. His world revolves around the benches in the park as everyone begins seeking him out as if he were a guru of grief: his brother Carlo (Alessandro Gassman), sister-in-law Marta (Valeria Golino) and colleagues (Silvio Orlando, Hippolyte Girardot and Denis Podalydès).

At work, a battle for power unfolds on the eve of a merger with a US company and everyone wants Pietro’s position. Yet Pietro is elsewhere, simply awaiting the explosion of guilt, of a devastating desperation that looms over him yet never comes.

Moretti plays his roles convincingly and the fact that he has never truly been an actor but a "character" playing himself over and over again reinforces the idea of a "Morettisation" of the film and main character. Nevertheless, there is a powerful correlation between Moretti’s character and that of the novel. And it is no coincidence that Veronesi includes the director among those he thanked for helping him write the book.

Pietro’s tics and obsessions are the same as those of Michele Apicella (the character of many of Moretti’s films) – such as making mental lists of “airlines companies I’ve flown, things I didn’t know about my wife, places I’ll never return to….” Thus, they give the film a touch of irony that softens the deep pain. While this may be reminiscent of The Son’s Room [+see also:
film profile
, the films are nonetheless substantially different.

“In my film,” said the director, “a family nucleus falls apart after a tragic event. In Quiet Chaos, new relationships arise from the pain and various characters bond because of it."

Besides the existential aspect of bringing the main character back to life, Moretti was probably also attracted to the project for its political aspects, with respect to the film industry and its infinite problems (at one point Pietro even says wearily, "We’ve been helping Italian cinema for years!"); in the character played by Roman Polanski, a tycoon halfway between Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch (the story’s merger reflects Murdoch’s acquisition of Tele+ and the subsequent creation of Sky in Italy several years ago); and in the possible reflection on what happens to people (and not just companies) as a result of a merger, on personal dramas, careerism and the values of friendship in a society that seems numbed under a volcano that never erupts.

(Translated from Italian)


international title: Quiet Chaos
original title: Caos calmo
country: Italy
sales agent: Fandango
year: 2007
directed by: Antonello Grimaldi
screenplay: Nanni Moretti, Laura Paolucci, Francesco Piccolo
cast: Nanni Moretti, Valeria Golino, Alessandro Gassman, Isabella Ferrari, Silvio Orlando

main awards/selection

Berlinale 2008 In Competition
David di Donatello Awards 2008 Best Actor in a Second Role (Alessandro Gassman)
Best Musician
Best Original Music

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