A superb metaphor on the plight of gays as dramatized by the loss felt by victims of terrorism, Andrea Adriatico’s “The Wind, in the Evening” instantly creates a gripping mood that never subsides until its beautifully meditative conclusion. A potent sign of an invigorated Italian cinema, pic speaks to the wider European aud experiencing the rise in domestic terror while confronting issues of gay discrimination. Raw, generally handheld nighttime vid lensing conjures hypnotic images accompanying a simple, human tale. Commercial prospects appear brightest in upscale urban markets and North American fests.
Rather than observing the social causes and effects of political assassination, like Italo films such as Francesco Masselli’s “An Open Letter to an Evening Paper” and Marco Bellochio’s recent “Good Morning, Night,” here Adriatico (with co-writer Stefano Casi) focuses on a victim’s surviving loved one.
This early evening-to-dawn sojourn through the streets of Bologna assumes a quality of its own, so that by the end, the central concerns of “The Wind” have developed on an entirely different course than the early scenes suggest. Time factor and meandering feeling conjure up memories of different but clearly influential films such as Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and especially Antonioni’s “La Notte.” Yet Adriatico, a vet theater director with three shorts behind him, establishes his own voice in a fine debut.
French author B.M. Koltes’ quote, “All it takes is a gust of wind and we fly away,” intros the tale, beginning with a montage of close-ups of enigmatic cell phone messages. Paolo awaits the arrival of his longtime partner Luca (Luca Levi), while elsewhere, elderly Marco bikes home. Grainy images and nervous mise en scene, perfectly accompanied by Roberto Passutti’s unnerving, plucking contrabass on the soundtrack create a tense mood.
Suddenly, Marco is gunned down as he enters the apartment building toward which Luca is headed. Then Luca, an innocent bystander and witness, is shot in the back. Opening credits appear a full 19 minutes into the running time, following an extraordinary sustained shot tracking the woozy aftermath of the shootings and the early shock felt by Paolo and sympathetic building neighbor Francesca (Francesca Mazza).
Adriatico denies viewers information Paolo wouldn’t know — his being left in the dark about Luca’s condition by hospital doctors doubly effective, because Paolo, denied the right to be Luca’s spouse under Italian law, is not a relative. Only after he overhears a journalist does Paolo learn Luca was DOA.
Paolo further learns by catching a news report on a storefront TV that Marco was a cabinet undersecretary targeted by terrorists. News comes so quickly that it’s easily missed, but its import tends to trivialize Paolo’s loss as he stumbles the Bologna streets, whose silences are regularly pierced by screaming sirens. His situation worsens when after a bitter phone conversation with Luca’s mother (Marina Pitta), who orders him to vacate the apartment he and her son shared.
Francesca, meanwhile, takes on Paolo’s grief as if Luca were her own lover and does her own form of night-crawling, but with far less emotional impact.
A random encounter between Paolo and a lonely man named Momo (Fabio Valletta) leads to an unexpected set piece in a gay bar, where the pic briefly aims for a more explicitly political theme. Things end on an Antonioni-like note as Paolo, having read the headlines confirming the double-killing, wanders into a park at dawn, alone and prayerful.
Final effect is of a nearly perfectly rounded drama, whose open end couldn’t have been predicted yet seems the result of a natural, mysterious, uncertain quest. As an expression of a contemporary, urban gay man looking for meaning amid chaos, “The Wind” contains a universality that portends a lasting work of art.
Salani’s Paolo starts quietly and builds an intensity that reaches emotional flowering in the closing moments. Mazza informs Francesca with more angst than seems right. Brief appearances by Ferretti, Pitta and Paolo Porto as the cafe owner, are powerful, while Valletta’s Momo is well balanced.
As combination composer, editor and sound recorder, Passuti provides indispensable contributions, creating complex sonic textures and establishing the pic’s rhythm in a way that lingers.