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SUNDANCE 2019 World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Review: Dolce Fine Giornata

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- Sundance regular Jacek Borcuch comes back to Park City with an alluring film, yet one that is loaded with profound questions about European identity

Review: Dolce Fine Giornata
Antonio Catania in Dolce Fine Giornata

Is there any other place in Europe that brings to mind la dolce vita more effectively than Italy? Great food, great wine, revered works of art and architecture, a scent of romance drifting through the air (as seen in Stealing Beauty or even Under the Tuscan Sun) – it’s as close to “perfection” as you can get. Yet the Tuscan town of Volterra is a location riddled with tension and crisis in Jacek Borcuch’s fourth film, Dolce Fine Giornata [+see also:
trailer
interview: Jacek Borcuch
film profile
]
, screening in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition of the Sundance Film Festival. As in his previous works, particularly All That I Love [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, which was presented at Sundance in 2010, he proves that his forte is creating an on-screen mood that swings from bucolic to melancholic, and then back again.

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Initially, everything seems perfect in the household of Maria Linde, a Jewish, Polish, Nobel Prize-winning poet (Krystyna Janda). She is surrounded by a loving husband, daughter (Loro [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
’s Kasia Smutniak), grandkids and friends. There is also a strikingly handsome, much younger Egyptian man called Nazeer, whom Maria is having an affair with. But as Western culture and dramaturgy show, no paradise can last forever. There is a growing tension in the air, elusive but palpable, as the town (as well as the rest of the Old World) tries to deal with the refugee crisis. After a terrorist attack in Rome, the sentiments of fear, suspicion and disdain towards the “aliens” are dramatically reinforced. Maria, who has previously faced antisemitism and prejudice many times in her life, and knows it leads nowhere, refuses to succumb to panic and distrust, which then makes her clash with her daughter. While accepting an award from Volterra’s mayor, she makes a controversial speech that brings chaos upon her family life, as well as making her persona non grata in the city. She doesn’t buckle under the pressure, however, and continues to stand up for freedom of speech and freedom of mind.

Dolce Fine Giornata is, to a large extent, a dense and complex portrait of European intellectuals who don’t want to be part of a world that is governed by the fear of others, that encourages the building of walls between nations and people, and that has no credible response to the moral crisis that has been ongoing for years in the Old World. Maria doesn’t want to assume the role of a mentor and authority, also for more intimate, personal reasons. The only person who sees and appreciates her vitality is Nazeer. Their mutual fascination is also a metaphor for the mutual seduction occurring between the Western and Oriental cultures – the former with a wealth of experience and financial resources, the latter vital and in search of new ways of life. Maria is a conflicted character, wonderfully portrayed by Krystyna Janda. The scenes between her character and that of her daughter are bristling with conflicted, raw emotions that drive the story from the political terrain into a more personal one. 

Borcuch shares his thoughts and concerns about where the world is headed in a very organic and subtle way, weaving them into everyday situations and brief conversations. The director doesn’t impose his views, and nor does he give away too much about his characters; he prefers his audience to connect the emotional dots themselves. This makes the film feel intimate, quiet and deserving of our attention. All in all, Dolce Fine Giornata, subtle as the morning mist, should not be overlooked as a superficial movie about “first-world problems”, but rather seen as a poem that has lasting resonance.

Dolce Fine Giornata is a Polish production staged by Marta Habior, of No Sugar Films, alongside Tank Production, Motion Group and Aeroplan StudiosFilms Boutique represents the movie internationally.

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