×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

One Hundred Nails

All the books in the world aren't nearly as valuable as a single cup of coffee with a friend -- so says "One Hundred Nails," Ermanno Olmi's disappointing follow-up to his luminous "Singing Behind Screens" (2003).

With:
With: Raz Degan, Luna Bendandi, Amina Syed, Michele Zattara, Damiano Scaini, Franco Andreani. (Italian, Po Valley dialect, English dialogue)

All the books in the world aren’t nearly as valuable as a single cup of coffee with a friend — so says “One Hundred Nails,” Ermanno Olmi’s disappointing follow-up to his luminous “Singing Behind Screens” (2003). Helmer, now 75, has declared this his last fiction feature, a double-blow for those who felt he’d just reached his most fruitful period — until now. Following a professor’s epiphany from jaded scholar to messiah-like neighbor, unconvincing tale may be screened at offshore Italo fests and retros. But given that Olmi’s last two (superior) pics were shelved internationally, it’s doubtful “Nails” will find takers.

Unsparingly religious in tone, despite the ad line “Religions have never saved the world,” film opens with a scene redolent of “The Da Vinci Code,” as tremulous strings accompany a caretaker’s horrified shouts from a library’s locked gate. When the cops arrive, the cause of his agitation is clear: Someone has nailed 100 precious manuscripts into the floor. Not just normal nails, but big ones, like the kind used to hammer Jesus onto the cross.

While police try to identify the perp, a flashback to the day before shows a professor of philosophy (Raz Degan), whose name Olmi deliberately withholds, bidding farewell to students at semester’s end. Of special significance is an Indian student (Amina Syed), completing her thesis on women and religion, who explains that religion is the one certainty in her people’s lives.

Suddenly, off goes the prof in his BMW convertible, which he abandons before heading to the banks of the Po River and a ruined peasant house. Venturing into town, he’s taken aback by the friendliness of the people, so unlike the bookish cityfolk back at Bologna U. Flirtations develop, neighbors help him fix up the ruins, and everyone turns to the charismatic newcomer for help when their illegally built community center is threatened with demolition.

How the professor turns into a Christlike figure, or indeed why they need him at all, remains a mystery — Olmi’s sympathetic yet simplistic view of the rural population displays a surprisingly (for him) patronizing attitude, as if they somehow need this intellectual outsider in order to survive. Final shot of candles lit along the road in anticipation of the prof’s return reinforces the sense of deification.

Olmi’s stated aim is to depict a figure exhibiting the humanity of Christ — not the Son of God, but the Son of Man. However, this still begs the question: Would Jesus damage precious manuscripts to make a facile and wrong-headed point? Olmi sets up a questionable dichotomy between an elderly, dried-up Monsignor with one milky eye, seen as the rep of the Church and all things bookish, and the handsome professor who’s turned his back on everything but human contact.

In many ways, “One Hundred Nails” harks back to Olmi’s earliest films, with a touch of Pasolini, evident not only in the locations but also the largely nonpro cast. Fabio Olmi’s lensing repeatedly returns to the river’s calm, presenting a timeless land of purer values than those of the city, though lacking the richness of his last two pics with father Ermanno. Music forms a key element, not only Fabio Vacchi’s post-Stravinsky strings, but also Ravel and traditional tunes turned into sacred chorales.

One Hundred Nails

Italy

Production: A Mikado release of a Cinema11unidici, RAI Cinema production. Produced by Luigi Musini, Roberto Cicutto. Executive producer, Elisabetta Olmi. Directed, written by Ermanno Olmi.

Crew: Camera (color), Fabio Olmi; editor, Paolo Cottignola; music, Fabio Vacchi; production designer, Giuseppe Pirrotta; costume designer, Maurizio Millenotti; sound (Dolby Digital), Francesco Liotard; assistant director, Gaia Gorrini. Reviewed at Cinema Quattro Fontane, Rome, March 23, 2007. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: Raz Degan, Luna Bendandi, Amina Syed, Michele Zattara, Damiano Scaini, Franco Andreani. (Italian, Po Valley dialect, English dialogue)

More Film

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in a Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Tessa Thompson Nnamdi Asomugha

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha to Star in 'Slyvie'

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are set to star in the feature film “Slyvie.” Eugene Ashe has written the screenplay and will direct with production currently underway. The film is described as a love story set in the cool jazz era of New York City in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s. Sylvie (played by Thompson) meets aspiring [...]

  • Night Fury dragon Toothless and Hiccup

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Soaring to $50 Million-Plus Launch

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is soaring toward a $53 million launch weekend at 4,259 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. That estimate is well above Universal’s forecast in the $40 million range at 4,259 sites — and ahead of its predecessors, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which made [...]

  • Actors With Disabilities Deserve a Hollywood

    Dreaming of a Hollywood Ending for Actors With Disabilities (Guest Column)

    Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy. In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition [...]

  • Clark Gable III

    Clark Gable's Grandson, Who Hosted 'Cheaters,' Found Dead at 30

    Clark Gable’s grandson, Clark Gable III, died on Friday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Variety confirmed with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. He was 30. “It’s is with an extremely heavy heart we say goodbye to my beautiful son Clark,” his mother wrote on Instagram. “He passed this morning. I will always [...]

  • You Were Never Really Here If

    Film Independent's Spirit Awards Fly the Flag for Indie Film

    As the 2018 awards season marches slowly into its final days, only a handful of honors remain undistributed after some of the most volatile and contentious campaigns in years. Front-runners have come and gone in one major category after the next, as each guild and critics group announced different winners than its predecessors, demolishing expectations [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content