- Marescotti Ruspoli’s debut feature is a visually refined, well-acted film with impressive work on sound, whose meandering plot reflects the disorientation of its protagonists
What is life without music? It’s a life of loneliness: no nightclubs, concerts, parties or funfairs; no weddings, funerals, hotel lobbies or lifts. Explaining all of this to us in Marescotti Ruspoli’s first feature film Amusia [+see also:
film profile] - which has been selected for the Tallinn Black Nights Festival’s First Films Competition this year - is a pretty, twenty-year-old woman with striking blue eyes and a look of torment about her, who has never danced in her entire life, has never heard Freddy Mercury’s voice or a Pink Floyd song, and who has to cover her ears when people present her with a cake and sing “Happy Birthday to you”, in order to stop herself from going mad.
Livia, the film’s young protagonist played by the magnetic Carlotta Gamba (America Latina [+see also:
film profile], Dante [+see also:
film profile]), lives with amusia (from the Greek "a-musia" or "lack of harmony"), a neurological dysfunction which distorts sounds, making it impossible to listen to any type of music. “Music is my enemy”, explains this young woman in no uncertain terms, who, in a twist of fate, is daughter to a selfish and arrogant musician (Maurizio Lombardi) who listens to symphonies non-stop and whose best attempts at getting along with Livia (and living in harmony under the same roof) consist of buying her the best earplugs on the market, “to block out the sounds of modern life”. Meanwhile, Livia’s mother (Fanny Ardant) is the only one fighting to convince people that her daughter’s is a genuine illness (a notice in the movie, which presumably unfolds in the Eighties, informs us that the syndrome was only recognised as such in 2000).
One day, sick and tired of listening to the distorted notes pouring out of her father’s stereo, Livia leaves the house and takes refuge in a hotel renting rooms by the hour and all aglow in neon lights, the Motel Amour, offering picturesque, themed bedrooms which are recommended to guests by diligent receptionist Lucio (Giampiero De Concilio), another twenty-year-old with wounds to be healed. These two lonely souls come together and start to hang out, but Livia ends up taking one step forwards and two steps back, because Lucio is also a DJ in a dance hall (the film is set in the Romagna province), and music plays a crucial emotional role in his life, a reality he clearly can’t share with Livia. A road nevertheless opens before them: all they have to do is keep the cassette player off.
Amusia is an ethereal, at times dreamlike work, which is visually refined and well-acted, and which boasts impressive sound design. On the one hand, its architecture, geometry and vanishing points suggest metaphysical moods; on the other, vast plains, fields and diners along the route remind us of the American Midwest (photography coming courtesy of Paolo Sorrentino’s faithful collaborator Luca Bigazzi). All of this is accompanied by real acoustic thriller moments, where an accurate depiction of the distortions affecting Livia when a record starts spinning proves positively nightmaresque. Ultimately, form does prevail over substance: the film’s weak point is its plot, which remains somewhat vague and wishy-washy when it comes to the paths and motivations of the two protagonists, possibly mirroring Lucio and Livia’s existential condition (“you’re more lost than I am, where are you going?”). But it does shine a light on a little-known syndrome which is ultimately incredibly fascinating to explore.
(Translated from Italian)
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