The Apartment

Two lonesome immigrants in Italy make brief but affecting contact in "The Apartment," a slim, neatly realized glance at a substratum of '90s Europe that doesn't soapbox its social message. Small-screen sales in Europe should be forthcoming for this entry in the four-pic series "Another Country in My Eyes," godfathered by veteran director Marco Bellocchio, with whom helmer Francesca Pirani trained as a scriptwriter.

With:
Lajla - Koina Rousseva Stefanova
Mamud - Emad Ibrahim
Tenant - Anita Laurenzi

Two lonesome immigrants in Italy make brief but affecting contact in “The Apartment,” a slim, neatly realized glance at a substratum of ’90s Europe that doesn’t soapbox its social message. Small-screen sales in Europe should be forthcoming for this entry in the four-pic series “Another Country in My Eyes,” godfathered by veteran director Marco Bellocchio, with whom helmer Francesca Pirani trained as a scriptwriter.

Two others in the series also premiered on the fall fest circuit: Marco and Antonio Manetti’s Nigerian-themed “Torino Boys” partnered “The Apartment” at Locarno, and Rachid Benhadj’s “The Tree of Hanging Destinies” played in Venice’s Venetian Workshop section. Final title, Roberto Giannarelli’s “Di cielo in cielo,” is in post-production.

Pic follows Mamud, a young glassblower from Egypt, who quits his job making pizzas in a Rome restaurant and steals his baby daughter from an orphanage where his Italian ex-lover left her. When a friend is no help in giving him shelter, Mamud breaks into an apartment, where he finds Lajla, a refugee from Mostar who has a part-time job as a housekeeper. Gradually, the wary pair find common ground.

Early reels sketch the tedious existence of the two prior to meeting, with Lajla shown traveling to her job as an office cleaner and Mamud sullenly going about his kidnap plan (explained only much later). Meat of the film is in the second half, which takes on a warmer tone than the docu-realist first section: Each turns out to be the other’s savior, with Mamud bringing a sense of optimism to the war-shattered, emotionally empty Lajla, and she giving him a second chance by not calling the cops.

Performances are modest but engaging, especially by Emad Ibrahim as the quietly determined Mamud. Dialogue has the ring of reality, and Carlo Crivelli’s delicate music does much to bring out the emotions never verbalized onscreen.

The Apartment

Italian

Production: A Filmalbatros production for RAI. (International sales: Sacis, Rome.) Produced by Pier Giorgio Bellocchio. Artistic supervisor, Marco Bellocchio. Directed by Francesca Pirani. Screenplay, Daniela Ceselli, Pirani; screen story, Ceselli.

Crew: Camera (color), Roberta Allegrini; editor, Francesca Calvelli; music, Carlo Crivelli; art direction, Roberto Feri; costume design, Stefania Svizzeretto; sound, Gaetano Carito, Andrea Lancia; assistant director, Ceselli. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Cineastes du Present), Aug. 15, 1997. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: Lajla - Koina Rousseva Stefanova
Mamud - Emad Ibrahim
Tenant - Anita Laurenzi

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