Written and directed by a man who himself served as a carabiniere, “The Destination,” Piero Sanna’s first fiction feature, follows a recruit from boot camp to his first assignment in Sardinia. Though loosely structured as a coming-of-age tale, pic’s strangely dispassionate focus makes it seem like a docudrama about the quasimilitary national police force known as the carabinieri and its uneasy jurisdiction over local areas. Pic should do OK in festivals and specialized Italo venues, but lacks the emotional resonance to attract arthouse auds.
Pic opens with a matter-of-fact overview of carabinieri training rites, centering on two fresh enlistees who become friends: Emilio (Roberto Magnani), an unemployed city kid from Rimini, and Constantino (Toto Mele), a Sardinian shepherd. After graduation, Emilio heads to Sardinia and Constantino out of the picture.
Pic switches gears radically in Sardinia, placing Emilio in an undreamed-of alien landscape of passion and primitivism straight out of “Padre Padrone” (except that men here senselessly slaughter sheep instead of screwing them). Patiently taught the uncertainties of justice by his shrewd but understanding captain (Vanni Fois in a perfectly balanced perf), Emilio is unprepared for the saga of death, intimidation, silence and lawlessness which the police force proves unable to stop.
Main Sardinian storyline, overlaid with Christian symbolism, about a long-suffering mother and a peasant boy who witnessed his father’s murder, gradually takes center stage. More and more, Emilio is sidelined as a helpless observer.
Even Emilio’s doomed romance with local woman Giacomina (Elisabetta Balia), which produces muttering discontent from the natives and an ambush beating, fails to read as particularly tragic. In one of pic’s lighter moments, the cultural differences between the young woman and man quietly collide on a date at the seashore, where Emilio laments the absence of concession stands and other civilized amenities that would “improve” the splendid untouched vista.
Tech credits are fine, particularly Emilio Della Chiesa’s dark lensing of the brooding lushness of Sardinia. Largely non-pro indigenous cast very convincingly projects the earthy impenetrability of the insular inhabitants.