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BERLINALE 2024 Competition

Review: Gloria!

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- BERLINALE 2024: Actress and musician Margherita Vicario’s riveting debut celebrates female composers and their lost legacies

Review: Gloria!
Galatéa Bellugi in Gloria!

For Margherita Vicario, what may have started as an archaeological dig into the history of women composers (scarce, as you might imagine) turned into a fresh, inspiring debut film that is now in the running for the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale. Seeing the Italian TV actress and musician pivot to filmmaking, and as confidently as she does with Gloria! [+see also:
trailer
interview: Margherita Vicario
film profile
]
, really is a wonder to behold, not because she can assemble a good team to help, but thanks to the film’s big, big heart, its beats felt in every single frame.

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The dawn of the 19th century, early in 1800, somewhere in Venice: this is where and when Gloria! takes place. However, the decision to set the film amidst a slightly loose setting chimes well with its explorations of under-preserved history; it’s good to know in advance that anything is possible in this film’s (strictly) period world. Much of this becomes clear when the beginning sweeps you up into a symphony of domestic labour. In an electrifying sequence, a young maid named Teresa (Galatéa Bellugi) observes the daily tasks performed by the women of the Sant’Ignazio institute – an orphanage, conservatory and convent all in one – as music coming together in a singular piece. Chopping carrots, sweeping cobblestones, scraping, clanking and scrubbing laundry all mesh into a melodic whole in Teresa’s mind, a testament to her musical talents.

Within Sant’Ignazio’s choir group, all of the girls are musically gifted, but Teresa can hear music in everything; she can also make music out of everything. From a hollow branch doubling as a flute to the extravagant piano prototype she finds locked away in the cellar, she can cause any instrument to yield to her will – inexplicably so. Her gift, however, is protected; everyone calls her “The Mute” and treats her disrespectfully, until one candle-lit night, she strikes a deal with a group of women musicians, four young ladies who are part of the Chapel Master’s orchestra: Lucia (Carlotta Gamba) – who’s the first violin of Sant'Ignazio – and her friends Prudenza (Sara Mafodda), Bettina (Veronica Lucchesi) and Marietta (Maria Vittoria Dallasta).

Reticent and plain rude at first, the girls grow fonder of each other night after night, taking turns to play the piano, compose and sing. Unsurprisingly, the film’s original music is composed by Vicario herself and her collaborator, music producer DADE (Davide Pavanello), delivering both classic and contemporary renditions of harmonies, strings, drums and love songs.

These scenes of rivalry transforming into solidarity and kinship signify the emotional aptness of what can be considered an otherwise conventional script: the rhythm is just right, while the feuds and the suspicion these young women gradually learn to let go of make room for creative forces that can sweep the world. There are certainly parts of Gloria! that feel formulaic because the script is so neatly structured into a conflict-resolution beat – with side plots involving an illegitimate child and the Chapel Master’s misgivings – but in its entirety, it’s a joyous ode to the innumerable female composers erased by history.

Not only that: Gloria! takes the utmost pleasure in empowering its female characters as women fed up with the uselessness of certain men in power, enough to then take matters into their own hands; a delightful aspiration to have and a form of pure joy to share with the biggest audiences on the biggest screen.

Gloria! is an Italian-Swiss movie staged by Tempesta and RAI Cinema, in co-production with Zurich-based tellfilm. RAI Cinema also handles world sales for the film.

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Photogallery 21/02/2024: Berlinale 2024 - Gloria

20 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

Margherita Vicario, Carlotta Gamba, Veronica Lucchesi, Sara Mafodda, Anita Rivaroli
© 2024 Dario Caruso for Cineuropa - dario-caruso.fr, @studio.photo.dar, Dario Caruso

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