Wondrous Boccaccio: To every love story its own colour
by Sabine Kues
- The duo of storytellers the Taviani brothers take on Boccaccio's The Decameron and once more recount tales of love in times of utter despair
It seems like the perfect material for the two Italian brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, who have been making films together since the 1960s. Wondrous Boccaccio [+see also:
interview: Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
film profile] is a film that is said to be loosely based on Boccaccio's accounts in The Decameron, when in fact it is the crucial plurality of authorship that lies at its core. The filmmakers not only directed the movie together, but also co-wrote the script for the film, which was screened at this year's Brussels Film Festival.
Their version of the story (in the wake of others, such as Pasolini's attempt with The Decameron in 1971) is set in plague-ridden Florence in the year 1348, when a group of ten people – seven young women and three young men – decide to flee the city and head for an old country house, and reside there for several days in a carefree state. Their days are spent lounging around in the luxurious country grounds and living the unfamiliar peasantry lifestyle – but most importantly, they establish the rule that each of them should tell a love story.
In their account, the Taviani brothers choose to paint their story not black, but myriad different colours, reminiscing on the renaissance paintings of Sandro Botticelli as he portrayed scenes from The Decameron, or those of Giotto and Masaccio, whom the two directors reveal as being sources of inspiration. In the opening scenes in the city of Florence, the plague is omnipresent, shown through the absence of people. A young woman dies in the presence of her family and with her last words expresses her desperation at leaving this world without having known pleasure.
The colours turn brighter as the youngsters take off a layer of dark clothes at the country house and thus a layer of their worries. A bounty of colours is revealed as they picturesquely sit down in a group for their first story: that of Catalina (Vittoria Puccini), a woman suffering from the plague and left to die by her husband, Nicoluccio (Flavio Parenti), and who is phantasmagorically resurrected by the love of another. The second story is more buoyant: Calandrino (Kim Rossi Stuart), a fool, turns vicious when he receives the power of invisibility – or so he thinks. The third and tragic story is that of the love between Ghismunda (Kasia Smutniak) and Guiscardo (Michele Riondino), which is inappropriate owing to their differing castes. As demanded by the style of Boccaccio, the fourth story lacks neither romance nor disobedience to the church when the sexuality of the beautiful nun Isabetta (Carolina Crescentini) is awakened. Finally, the fifth story revolves around Federigo's (Josafat Vagni) devotion to Giovanna (Jasmine Trinca), which is only reciprocated after both have lost what is dear to them.
A film that might appear to some as consisting of old-fashioned tales in fact breathes life into stories of love that are still relevant today – and in Wondrous Boccaccio, these love stories come in all shapes and especially colours. The movie is distributed internationally by MK2, and is an Italian and French co-production through Stemal Entertainment, Cinemaundici, Rai Cinema and Barbary Films.