×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Venice Film Review: ‘Capri-Revolution’

Art takes on science in the fight for a peasant girl's soul in pre-WWI Capri, but it's not best served by Mario Martone's lustreless film.

Director:
Mario Martone
With:
Marianna Fontana, Reinout Scholten van Aschat, Antonio Folletto

2 hours 1 minute

A sensual, sexual and intellectual awakening proves mostly asleepening in “Capri-Revolution,” a nobly intended period saga from high-minded Italian filmmaker and playwright Mario Martone that rather buckles under the weight of its exhaustively footnoted ideas. Set in the anxious months preceding World War I, and mapping out a battle of wits and wills between two contrastingly educated men for the soul of a humble lady goatherd on the sun-blasted slopes of Capri, Martone’s film plants a flag for liberal philosophical progress and cultural blending in the face of insular, buttoned-up conservatism. Which is all well and good, but can’t patch over the tired misogynistic undertones of a premise that effectively hinges on gaseous male egos oppressively mansplaining a young woman into liberation. Though it implores audiences to look outward, this attractively appointed Franco-Italian production is unlikely to travel far beyond its own shores.

Bowing in competition at Venice — a regular stomping ground for Martone since his 1992 debut, “Death of a Neapolitan Mathematician,” won the Grand Prix there — “Capri-Revolution” isn’t flattered by premiering mere months after Alice Rohrwacher’s “Happy as Lazzaro,” a wittier, more soulful extraction of sociopolitical musings from the travails of a holy fool in a threatened rural Italian idyll. In its opening stretches, however, Martone’s film carries a briefly promising shiver of curiosity and wonder, as it languidly builds the peaceable but limited world of Lucia (Marianna Fontana), a guileless, inquisitive young woman who has lived all her life amid the stones and scrub of Capri. While she compliantly tends to her family’s goats, she plainly yearns (via a serenely sorrowful facial expression that could break at any point into a rendition of the “Little Mermaid” ballad “Part of Your World”) for something more.

That something arrives in lascivious form when Lucia first stumbles upon a gaggle of nude sunbathers on the secluded rocks where she usually goes rambling — further than her boorish, abusive older brothers would like — with her livestock. These exotically pink-skinned invaders turn out to be members of a bohemian commune from northern Europe overseen, in the creepy, notionally charismatic manner of a cult leader, by performance artist Seybu (Reinout Scholten van Aschat). Seybu is a fictionalized, more romantically new-age version of real-life German painter Karl Diefenbach, who established a creatives’ commune in Capri between 1900 and 1913, incorporating Diefenbach’s forward-thinking hippie practices with artistic theory poached from Joseph Beuys.

That the film is set in 1914, seven years before Beuys was even born, is an anachronism intended to lend proceedings a dreamily elastic, out-of-time feel, though that’s rather undercut by the windy expanses of academic pontification that proceed to dominate the script, written by Martone and his art-historian partner Ippolita di Majo. They somehow fire up Lucia’s engines, however, as she swiftly falls under Seybu’s beardy, blank-gazed spell, giving up the goats for hazy days of naturist dancing, sexual discovery and levitational hallucinations, and going from illiterate to multilingual philosophy student in record time. Her simple, subsistence-focused family is less than thrilled with this development; they would rather marry Lucia off to a older local bigwig.

Making a more articulate attempt to lure her back from the boho brink of “this selfish individualism,” meanwhile, is young local doctor Carlo (Antonio Folletto), who winds up locked in a protracted exchange of worldviews with Seybu. This duel accounts for the film’s most turgid passages, hampered by stilted English-language dialogue as the two men hammer away at each other with such observations as, “There is only matter and spirit; there is no duality” and, “Art is the only tangible capital.”

It’s a battle between art and science in which neither side has brought its brightest soldiers to the field; within the former camp, meanwhile, internal schools of thought split and quarrel. By the time the growingly disenchanted Lucia suggests that everyone “go back to dancing in the woods,” it’s hard not to agree. Following up her auspicious debut in the 2016 Venice hit “Indivisible,” Fontana continues to prove herself an open, appealing screen presence, despite the frustratingly passive nature of Lucia’s internal revolution. What’s missing, however, is a palpable sense of chemistry between her and either of the two men out to free her mind, body and/or soul.

As shot with deep-blue widescreen clarity by Michele D’Attanasio, Capri is presented to the audience more from the perspective of the enamored new arrivals than its weathered, callused native sons and daughters. The film’s most arresting formal element is a dissonant electro score by German ambient duo Sascha Ring and Philipp Thimm, which skitters between ominous and euphoric modes, and further plants the film on the side of cultural progress and disruption. Would that the rest of “Capri-Revolution” had more avant-garde conviction.

Venice Film Review: 'Capri-Revolution'

Reviewed at Soho Screening Rooms, London, Aug. 22, 2018. (In Venice Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 121 MINS.

Production: (Italy-France) An Indigo Film, Rai Cinema presentation in coproduction with Pathé. (International sales: Pathé Films, Paris.) Producers: Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Carlotta Calori. Executive producer: Viola Prestieri. Co-producers: Jérôme Seydoux, Ardavan Safaee, Muriel Sauzay.

Crew: Director: Mario Martone. Screenplay: Martone, Ippolita di Majo. Camera (color, widescreen): Michele D'Attanasio. Editors: Jacopo Quadri, Natalie Cristiani. Music: Sascha Ring, Philipp Thimm.

With: Marianna Fontana, Reinout Scholten van Aschat, Antonio Folletto, Gianluca di Gennaro, Eduardo Scarpetta, Jenna Thiam, Ludovico Girardello, Lola Klamroth, Maximilian Dirr, Donatella Finocchiaro (Italian, English, German, French, Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • Noe Debre On His Directorial Debut,

    Top French Screenwriter Noe Debre Make Directorial Debut, ‘The Seventh Continent’

    This last half-decade, few French screenwriters have run up such an illustrious list of co-write credits as Noé Debré. Thomas Bedigain’s writing partner on Jacques Audiard’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Deephan,” Debra co-penned Bedigain’s own debut, “The Cowboys,” “Racer and the Jailbird,” by Michael Roskam, and “Le Brio,” directed by Yvan Attal. He has now [...]

  • Julien Trauman Talks Survival-Thriller Short ‘At

    Julien Trauman on Survival-Thriller Short ‘At Dawn’

    France’s Julien Trauman has never been afraid to play with genre, and in his latest short, the MyFrenchFilmFestival participant “At Dawn,” he employs aspects of psychological thriller, survival, coming-of-age and fantasy filmmaking. “At Dawn” kicks off the night before when a group of teens, one about to leave town, are imbibing heavily around a beach-side [...]

  • ‘Flowers’ Director Baptiste Petit-Gats Interview

    Baptiste Petit-Gats: ‘Editing Taught Me How to Write for Film’

    France’s Baptiste Petit-Gats is an hyphenate that keeps himself plenty busy editing, photographing, writing and directing. The bulk of his editing gigs up until now have been in documentary film work, evident in the way he shot and edited his own short film, participating in the MyFrenchFilmFestival, “Flowers.” In the film, Petit-Gats tells the heartbreaking [...]

  • Fanny Litard, Jérémy Trouilh on ‘Blue

    France’s Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh Discuss MyFFF Suburban Fable ‘Blue Dog’

    French filmmakers Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh met at university while studying political science before diverging towards separate careers. Trouilh trained in documentary filmmaking; Liatard worked on urban artistic projects in Lebanon and France. They eventually joined back up to film three shorts: “Gagarine,” a Sundance Channel Shorts Competition Jury Prize winner in 2016; “The [...]

  • MFFF: 'The Collection' Director Blanchard Readies

    'The Collection' Director Emmanuel Blanchard Readies First Feature

    Paris-born Emmanuel Blanchard studied and then taught history before becoming a documentary filmmaker responsible for films such as “Bombing War,” “Le diable de la République” and “Après la guerre.” He’s currently directing “Notre-Dame de Paris”, a 90-minute animated part-doc, part-fiction film on the building of the world-famous Paris cathedral. Competing at MyFFF, “The Collection” is [...]

  • Dragon Ball Super: Broly

    Film Review: ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly’

    Late in “Dragon Ball Super: Broly,” the 20th Japanese anime feature in a 35-year-old franchise that also has spawned scads of TV series, trading cards, video games, mangas, and limited-edition collectibles, a supporting character complains, “I don’t understand a single thing you’ve said the whole time.” If you’re among the heretofore uninitiated drawn to this [...]

  • Loco Films Boards 'Paper Flag' From

    Loco Films Boards 'Paper Flag' From Promising New Director Nathan Ambrosioni (EXCLUSIVE)

    Loco Films has come on board “Paper Flag” (“Les Papiers de drapeaux”), the feature debut of 18-year old French director Nathan Ambrosioni. The film explores the ambivalent relationship between two siblings and the concept of freedom. Guillaume Gouix (“The Returned”) stars as a young adult who has just got out of jail after 12 years [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content