Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty reawakens consciences
by Camillo de Marco
05/09/2012 - Dormant Beauty [trailer, film focus, festival scope] takes us back to the first few days of February 2009 when an emergency decree was being discussed in the Italian Senate to stop the father of a young woman named Eluana who had been in a coma for seventeen years from taking his daughter off life support. Like in many Marco Bellocchio films, real life images are mixed with actors’ performances. Toni Servillo plays the role of a senator (a former socialist) from Silvio Berlusconi’s majority coalition. The man is filled with doubts questions of conscience as he comes to a decision to vote against the law and resign, having given in to the pleas of his fatally ill wife who has been pleading with him to help her put an end to her life. His militant catholic daughter (Alba Rohrwacher), who has been protesting in front of the clinic where Eluana is hospitalized, falls in love with a young man (Michele Riondino) in favour of euthanasia.
Isabelle Huppert is a famous actress who is watching over Eluana and praying for her to come out of her vegetative state. Meanwhile, a female drug addict, no longer seeing sense in going on, tries to end her life. She is stopped by a doctor (Piergiorgio Bellocchio) who watches over her in hospital.
These are a few of the characters from the human mosaic which Bellocchio has chosen to create in order to delve into the cardinal issue that is euthanasia. In so doing, the director touches on some of his favourite themes: family, religion, political and social involvement and the collective imagination. He manages to do this through powerful, original and surprising narrative and visual tools. The insights he gives are so paradoxical and surreal, they sometimes provoke liberating laughter. His causticity is devastating. Like the doctor who bets on the death of the girl in a coma, the Berlusconi senators who meet up at the thermal baths presenting a scene out of a neoclassical fresco, the psychiatrist senator (Roberto Herlitzka) who hands out psychotropic drugs to his anxiety ridden colleagues, the bigoted forms of behaviour of certain Catholics, or the actress’ young daughter painted like a sleeping beauty Disney figure. The fictional character of actress Isabelle Huppert acts as counter alter to those politicians who – often saved from prison walls by a cheating electoral system – love to profess indignation in the grand rooms of the Senate.
Bellocchio takes a special interest in the role of the father. In terms of news coverage, that means a closer look at Beppino Englaro, Eluana’s father, to whom Uliano Beffardi, played by Servillo, looks up. Thanks to him, he finds the strength for an internal debate, full of doubts and hesitations, defined by the political man that he is – torn between a socialist past and a present within a political party void of deep questioning.
Thanks to his ambition to provoke strong unconscious and emotional reactions, Bellocchio stays away from the banal, the obvious and any kind of bottom-up standardisation. He dismantles common perceptions and paves the way for newer and fresher ideas, marking a reawakening of reason from its deep sleep.
(Translated from Italian)