Review: My Own Good
by Vittoria Scarpa
- VENICE 2018: Pippo Mezzapesa's film tells a simple yet important tale, centred around the last remaining inhabitant of a town destroyed by an earthquake, who is fighting to keep its memory alive
It is among the ruins of an earthquake-stricken town, amidst crumbling homes, empty streets and broken signs, that Pippo Mezzapesa has set his new, meaningful feature film (his second in fiction terms), My Own Good [+see also:
interview: Pippo Mezzapesa
film profile], screened as a special event in the Giornate degli Autori section of the 75th Venice Film Festival. His is a highly topical film, in view of the earthquakes which have devastated several parts of central Italy in recent years (notably in L’Aquila, Marche and Amatrice), drilling down into the themes of loss and memory - both individual and collective - with a great deal of grace and through the rather strange character of Elia. This last remaining inhabitant of a ghost town called Providence has no intention whatsoever of leaving his precarious house on the hill and moving downstream into the new and impersonal community housing, referred to only as A52 (“what is this, a naval battle?”).
Sergio Rubini steps into the skin of this man, who is both desperate and full of life, who lives like a hermit with only his memories for company – in particular, those of his wife, Maria – and whom everyone considers to be a little bit bonkers. Every so often, someone comes to see him: the local teacher, Rita (Teresa Saponangelo), who managed to survive the collapse of the school, unlike Elia’s wife; his friend, Gesualdo (Dino Abbrescia), who brings Japanese and American tourists to visit the ghost town on a daily basis, taking souvenir photos with the last remaining inhabitant; the mayor, Pasquale (Francesco De Vito), who tries his best to convince Elia to move into the rebuilt town downstream (New Providence) like all the other previous inhabitants, and to finally leave the past behind him. But it is another and wholly unexpected presence which ultimately turns our man’s life upside-down: that of Noor (Sonya Mellah), an illegal immigrant who decides to hide in Elia’s house and who will find in the hermit a partner in illegality (“you’re illegal and so am I”).
Through the figure of this eccentric man who struggles to accept the loss of his wife, an entire community comes to life before our eyes. Everyone has lost someone or something and each of them reacts to their pain in their own particular way: there are those who dream of leaving, those who change career and those who do everything they can to forget. Elia, however, takes a different view on the matter: “We need to remember”, he insists, and eventually becomes the custodian, not only of his own memory, but of everyone else’s too - of their objects and the places in which their now defunct community life once took place.
There are, at this point in time, hundreds of people still living in precarious conditions in Italy as a direct result of earthquakes, and there are a great number of ghost towns like Providence within our lands which have been left, abandoned, and have never been rebuilt. My Own Good is an important work in that it shows us one of these towns from the inside (the film was shot in Apice, a town which has been deserted since the 1980 Irpinia earthquake), and through fiction and irony, it seems to implore us – much like its protagonist – to not forget.
My Own Good is produced by Altre Storie alongside Rai Cinema, with the support of Mibact, the Region of Lazio and the Region of Puglia. The film will be distributed in Italy by Altre Storie from 4 October. International sales will be managed by True Colours.
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