Friday, July 18, 2008





RATING: *****

One hundred years of solitude spent I,

Before I set my sight on this masterpiece:

And only then did I realize,

What a terrible fool I had been

This is the very first time that I sit down to write about a movie within a minute of its end, as the end credits rolled by with me looking at them just to familiarise myself with the names involved as I always do when I watch a film that is not popularly talked about in non-intellectual circles. Normally it is just because I want to boast that I had just finished viewing a film that won at Cannes, or because I want to jump on the critic’s bandwagon and shout out loud that the movie is every bit worthy of the award it received. But this time it is really different, because THE SON’S ROOM, like some other movies like ‘L’ Enfant’ and ‘The Edge of Heaven’ is one that is meant to be experienced and not criticised or commented upon. I want to write this summary or my experience watching through the movie, because I fear that my memories would die away if I neglected this one, or put it off till later.

Every film wants its viewers to see it through the eyes of one of the characters in it, and obviously as any other good film or masterpiece rather, ‘The Son’s Room’ would also be having such intentions. But I frankly prevaricated from one character to another as I could literally not decide who I wanted to be and I could also not figure out who the movie’s director Nanni Moretti wanted me to be: Whether it was the Psychiatrist-Dad (Moretti himself) who needs to be taught by his patients what emotions were, or the typical yet lovable and admirable mother Paola (Morenta) who is every bit of the usual sensitive and impatient human beings Mothers are, or the basket-ball playing daughter Irene (Trinca) who is a typical teenager who obviously doesn’t know how she has to react in the situation of a tragedy in her family, for teenagers aren’t blessed with the maturity adults possess. Maybe I rather wanted to be the young Andrea (Sanfelice) and watch my loved ones lingering about in their emotions without a clue as to when and where they could express themselves with a bitter-sweet smile on my face.

Giovanni is a psychiatrist, who does not get to see various patients like any other faceless consultant would be doing, but all he sees or rather all that is pictured in the movie is him counselling just four or five people, and that is one aspect that gives a lot of clarity and sensibility to the whole plot. His wife Paola works at some company at a desk job while his son Andrea and daughter Irene are high-school students. The story begins with Giovanni being summoned by Andrea’s principal, who accuses him and his friend Luciano of stealing a fossil ammonite stone, and he has the testament of another boy to back his statement. Andrea is suspended for a week, and though Giovanni along with Luciano’s dad try to prove to themselves more than anyone else, that their sons are innocent of the theft, Andrea silently admits to his mother that he had stolen it ‘Just for fun and to catch the look on his obsessed teacher’s face, and he was meant to return it back when they accidentally broke it’. His mother responds by nothing except a warm hug that shows possibly that she’s glad her son admitted his mistake and I don’t really know whether she tells Giovanni this or even whether this storyline has any importance to the plot at all! What I saw in the story of the stolen fossil is a disposition of characters, perhaps too clearly, as to who they are and what they do. And this process tells you that Andrea is one teenager who is not the least transparent to his parents, though there is no doubt that he loves them even as much as they love him. He shrugs away at his father smilingly, as the latter asks him why he threw away a tennis match to an opponent named Stefano (And this has some amount to do as the story progresses) and this is when he knows full well that it is a psychiatrist he had for a dad, and that person possibly knows a lot more about what goes on through his son’s mind than any other parent might know.

Or does he…?

Andrea however does not live to explain anything to the viewers or to his parents as a Sunday family-union is converted into one with each heading to one direction thanks to a phone-call from one of Giovanni’s patients who apparently has something very urgent to say. As a change of plans, Andrea heads to scuba-dive with his friends not to return alive because of a blood clot that happens most probably because of an empty oxygen-tank. The nails are drilled into the coffin with sister Irene asking for one last look at her brother’s face before closing it: And now is when the actual plot starts. Giovanni starts to change from his usual stone-faced psychiatrist self to a normal human being – One transition people are literally not blessed with nowadays. He does everything that his patients say, and that particularly at the time he sees his next patient. He cries when he hears from one such man, that crying is something that is actually a comfort. And cry he does when he hears from another patient about how she had no babies though she loved them. He starts to give vent to his feelings as prompted earlier by a patient who appears just once and she tells him that he doesn’t get even annoyed by her speech, for he suppresses it all inside him. And also there is one patient who had called on the disastrous day, and Giovanni has no problem to vent his feelings on him as he believes that this man was the cause of his son’s death: And that is quite natural for any father who actually is guilty that his son died because of his neglect, for it was he who chose to leave and attend the man’s call rather than spend time with his son. And he realizes that too for he dwells on that thought: What if he hadn’t gone that day; What if he had his son near him instead…

Honestly I had never before seen a movie as heavy with emotions as this. How would it be to walk into a room of your son who has died? How would it be to look around in the room of a boy about whom you knew nothing particularly: That he had a girlfriend, or that he listened to English music, or that he took pictures of his room to mail to that girl? And what if those pictures were the only way you knew that your son had a funny person in him, and also a photographer in him? And how would you react if you saw those pictures handed over to you by his pen-pal girlfriend? You cry. You know to do nothing else. You don’t be aware of what other people would think. You cry. And that is what Giovanni does; Paola does it too; Irene is too childish to do that, though she cries inside a trial-room in a clothes shop (She possibly cries thinking about her break-up with her boyfriend, and you could assume she cries about her brother because at no other place did she cry in the movie, though she indulges into a fistfight with an opponent at a match as a referee refuses to call a foul). Arianna (That is the girl’s name) comes to their house with a boy named Stefano (Surprise!) who is taking her for a hitchhike to France. The girl is the bereaved parents’ last link to their son. And they feel as though that by helping her, they would be helping their son as well, because she was one girl who really knew about their boy. Not even the sister knew as much…

‘The Son’s Room’ is a film that shakes and stirs you down to the last straw. And I know that I revealed the whole plot in my summary. That does not matter: Certain movies need to be seen for the substance and the emotions they have in them, rather than for the complexities of the plot and this is certainly one such. No place do you see misunderstandings and even if there were they are just momentary and nowhere is a drift between the living threesome, for that is how a family works. You cannot help but bear a bitter-sweet smile on your face and carry a little drop of a tear in your eyes as you watch through the movie: Maybe you do live as Andrea throughout the movie. Or maybe you cannot help but admire the film and say ‘If that isn’t a thing of beauty, then Keats is a liar’.

And you know he isn’t because you are experiencing the joy of it forever…