The Nature of Things: Love, pain and the need for freedom
by Samuel Antichi
- Italian director Laura Viezzoli films her encounter with Angelo Santagostino, completely immobile, who manages to communicate only through the use of an eye-tracking device and a PC
Completely immobile, confined to his bed at home, Angelo Santagostino manages to communicate only through the use of an eye-tracking device and a PC. After being diagnosed in 2008, at the age of 65, with ALS, Santagostino was forced to come to terms with his “two-dimensional” life. The encounter, and ten months of meetings between him and director Laura Viezzoli, along with the stories, food for thought, reflections and questions that came with them, gave rise to the film The Nature of Things, which had its premiere at the Locarno Film Festival. The film went on to feature at other festivals in Italy and abroad, winning prestigious prizes like the Corso Salani Award at the Trieste Film Festival most recently. It has now been chosen to enrich the main competition of the Alessandria Film Festival, this year in its inaugural edition.
Right from the beginning of the film, the viewer falls into the swing of the everyday life of Angelo, a former priest who abandoned his calling when he fell in love with Marinella, who later died from breast cancer. His body is a pendulum, keeping track of time during the slow daily ritual he is subjected to, twenty-four hours of continual assistance and a pre-established schedule overseen by three nurses. The director decides to film this man and his powerlessness from a distance and with respect, capturing Angelo from the entrance to his room while he is cleaned, dressed or put to bed. The intimate and personal story of a man close to death, which doesn’t penetrate his suffering in an invasive way, avoiding simple rhetoric and refusing the vague and superficial approach often adopted for subjects such as euthanasia and its ethical-political issues.
It is Angelo that guides the narration, telling us (through Roberto Citran’s voice-over) about his disease and his life, in detail and depth, through the letters he writes to Laura with his eyes, the only part of him that still responds to the impulses of his brain. Eyes that are often filled with hot and implacable tears of commotion, specks of liquid emotion untouched by his motor neurone disease, which he cannot hide nor dab away.
The film touches on many themes, such as love, pain, and the need for freedom, in a constant stream of consciousness, whilst we are shown images from Santagostino’s private archive and footage of air cadets and astronauts, the landing on the Moon and deep space. Like an astronaut, he too explores the Infinite, probing the unknown within the limits of what is and isn’t liveable, with brilliance and clarity of mind, between rejoicing in little and simple things like dawn and the sun exploding in a burst of red in the morning, and the frustration and desire to let himself go, “because a wise man lives as long as he can, and not as long as he ought”.
(Translated from Italian)