Critique : Girasoli
par Camillo De Marco
- Catrinel Marlon se lance dans le long avec une histoire d'amour entre deux femmes dans les murs d'un hôpital psychiatrique des années 1960, mais dominée par un sentimentalisme assez conventionnel
Cet article est disponible en anglais.
Chosen by Corneliu Porumboiu as the protagonist for The Whistlers [+lire aussi :
interview : Corneliu Porumboiu
fiche film], which competed for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme D’Or in 2019, Catrinel Marlon has found Italy to be the best terrain to direct her first ever feature film Sunflowers, which premiered out of competition in the Turin Film Festival.
At the heart of the film is the story of an impossible love between two young women in the mid-Sixties: Anna, a nurse who spent time in an orphanage (Mariarosaria Mingione) and Lucia (Gaia Girace), a fifteen-year-old woman with schizophrenia who has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital where old, coercive methods are still in use. Written by the director alongside Francesca Nozzolillo and pro Heidrun Schleef, the screenplay was inspired by autobiographical events, namely the experience of one of Catrinel Marlon’s aunts (although the former also grew up in an orphanage), because, as the director has stressed in interviews, Romania is still seriously lagging behind when it comes to the treatment of mentally ill patients. Conveniently, the film is set in Italy, at a time when psychiatrist and neurologist Franco Basaglia was starting to conduct experiments of deinstitutionalisation, based on the model of English therapeutic communities, in order to move away from the image of asylums as “places of mortification and emotional emptiness”.
It’s these ideas of psychiatric reform in Italy which inspire the only psychiatrist working in Marlon’s hospital, which is more like a prison than a care facility: Doctor D’Amico (Monica Guerritore), who works in the ward for younger patients, including children. This psychiatrist is opposed to restraints, straight-jackets, violent nurses, electroconvulsive therapy, lobotomy and psychiatric drugs, which sees her clashing with and derided by her colleagues. Her focus soon falls on teenager Lucia and, with Anna’s help, she manages to extract her from the grip of her colleague Gentile (Pietro Ragusa), who advocates the old methods.
Unfortunately, Catrinel Marlon’s didactic approach is somewhat reckless in its exploration of such a complex and sensitive topic as Basaglia’s revolutionary reforms, which ultimately led to the acknowledgement of the mentally ill as human beings (though the fight is by no means won). Doubtless, her intention is to reflect upon madness, love and human relations, but when Anna and Lucia’s relationship becomes romantic, the banks begin to burst and the film proves incapable of containing this copious material, threatening to trivialise the supportive triangle of sisterhood created between the nurse, the patient and the doctor. Director of photography Fabio Zamarion, who has worked on many of Giuseppe Tornatore’s films, and set designer Tonino Zera do their best (in spite of a low budget) to recreate the nightmare of the asylum’s corridors with their peeling walls resonating with the echoes of children’s cries. But the film’s dialogues and situations result in an overwhelming conventional sentimentalism and a TV-style cautiousness which thwarts the emotional tension which might otherwise arise from the subject-matter. The director has sought an angle from which to temper the brutality of the story, but too many elements are left under-explored and too many characters under-developed (the ambiguous behaviour of a psychiatric colleague, for example) in order to appeal to a more mainstream audience who aren’t necessarily looking for the depth that comes with films screened in festivals or arthouse cinemas.
Sunflowers is co-produced by Italy, Romania and Belgium via Masi Film and RAI Cinema, Mobra Film and Gapbusters, in association with Lumina MGR. The movie will be distributed in Italy by Masi Film in collaboration with Pathos Distribution.
(Traduit de l'italien)
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