Saturday, July 30, 2016


Renaissance Italy. A soldier returns to Bobbio after his twin brother, a priest, has died. If his brother committed suicide his remains must stay where they are in unconsecrated ground. If the monks of the local convent prison can prove that the nun they have jailed led the deceased to death through a pact with Satan then the bones can rest in the shadow of the church. What happens to the woman in question? Usual deal, she dies or she dies in varying extents of pain.

At first the soldier threatens the woman with his dagger. Then, having failed to emulate his brother's ascetic piety by virtue of his worldliness showing him how futile it was, he begins to identify with the prisoner. The case continues to its end and it is ugly.

Present day same location. The convent in disrepair is the object of a Russian billionaire's interest for development. The old aristocrat in residence who keeps himself in a Schrodinger-like state of non/existence and who might well be a vampire, opposes this move and tracks down the local official who is brokering the deal. We have seen the old Count before, in the convent, sage and senior but inactive. Here, he seems to be the same but, if immortal, just older. We have also seen the official, the soldier of the previous tale. Nothing is quite what it seems and we are led to a climax of strange and haunting imagery in which both stories are concluded.

I have to mention the use of digital video here because it's impressive. The antique story is shown with none of the usual filmy processing. The effect of the scenes with their strong painterly composition is that of what a Raphael or Titian saw while painting rather than the end result. The present day section is pointedly conventional in looks. Interesting.

There is a clear logic to each of these stories. No one will have trouble with the course of events. The trouble comes from trying to reconcile the two. At initial viewing, they seem to sit awkwardly beside each other as though introduced by a host who knows or cares little about the art of social blending. It's only with a few breaths on the stroll away from the cinema, that correlations appear and a kind of sense emerges. I still don't know what that leads to beyond a sense of retribution against entitlement but it's still with me. So, that's a good start to the ol' Fest, then.

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