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VENICE 2016 Venice Days

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Worldly Girl: The love that will set you free


- VENICE 2016: Marco Danieli’s debut film enters into the stiff world of Jehovah’s Witnesses through the story of a young woman who is prevented from living

Worldly Girl: The love that will set you free
Sara Serraiocco in Worldly Girl

It’s a complicated love story, one that is atypical and ends in a completely unexpected way that is at the centre of the second Italian film in competition at the 13th Venice Days section of the Venice Film Festival, Worldly Girl [+see also:
interview: Marco Danieli
film profile
by Marco Danieli. And guiding us through the story is once again a strong and determined woman fighting for her freedom (which we’ve seen a lot of in this year’s edition of Venice Days), this time in the stiff world of Jehovah’s Witnesses, an orthodox religious movement which has one of its most thriving communities in Italy, but which we only think about when they come knocking at our door.

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Knocking on doors and asking questions like “do you think God exists?”, is also what Giulia (Sara Serraiocco) does when it’s her turn to go preaching from door to door. She’s in her last year of high school, is especially gifted at mathematics, and wants to continue her studies, supported in this by her teacher (Lucia Mascino). But her religion doesn’t allow it, and nor does her mother (Stefania Montorsi), because university would take up precious time that could be spent studying doctrine. And so she contents herself with working in the factory owned by her father (Marco Leonardi). During one of her rounds knocking on doors, she meets Libero (Michele Riondino), a working-class youth who has just got out of prison, and decides to help him by offering him a job. Passion soon blossoms between the pair, but for a Jehovah’s Witness, falling in love with a boy ‘of the world’ is strictly forbidden, upon pain of being banished from the community. Giulia, however, will stop at nothing, and Libero (nomen omen) throws open the door to her new life.

Built on compulsory meetings, hard-and-fast rules, and the ostracism of those who stick their head above the pulpit, the world of Jehovah’s Witnesses is described, in Danieli’s film, in minimum detail with realism and moderation. Although it is a community that on the one hand oppresses the individual, dictating how they dress, what they eat and who they see, on the other it is one that unites people and offers them warmth, here epitomised in the hypnotic and paternal voice of Giacomo (Pippo Delbono), the Elder of the congregation. He maintains the same air of mellow calm even when he has Giulia on trial, asks her intimate details on her encounters with Libero, embarrasses her and humiliates her, and then goes to her to tell her she’s been excommunicated. A cruel sentence: even her mother is no longer allowed to speak to her. 

Worldly Girl is not, therefore, a protest film. Even the world of Libero, into which Giulia is unsuspectingly catapulted, has its pitfalls and soon reveals its ugly side (“you’d best steer clear of this world, yours isn’t the only one with problems”, he tells her). Giulia is plagued with doubt and nostalgia. But there’s a third option, an unrelenting path to freedom. 

Worldly Girl was produced by the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia with Rai Cinema, in co-production with French company Barbary Film. International sales are being handled by Intramovies and the film is slated for release in Italy in the autumn with Bolero Film.

(Translated from Italian)

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