A Review of La Stanza del Figlio
Directed, Written, Produced by Nanni Moretti
Starring: Nanni Moretti, Laura Morante, Giuseppe Sanfelice, Jasmine Trinca
Every once in a while there comes a film that is so simple, so pure in its presentation of basic human emotions and strifes, that it leaves the viewer stunned once Fin appears on screen. Nanni Moretti’s La Stanza del Figlio (2001) is one of these films. The verisimilitude of The Son’s Room harkens back to the profundity of Italian films made by titans such as De Sica and Rossellini - that’s how adept Moretti is at carrying the tradition of Italian neo-realism. The Son’s Room exhibits your average middle-class nuclear family, located in Ancona, on the cusp of the Adriatic. Giovanni (Moretti) is the psychoanalytical patriarch who struggles to hold himself, his wife, Paola (Laura Morante), and his daughter, Irene (Jasmine Trinca), together after the death of their 18 year-old son, Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice), in a SCUBA diving accident. Similar to the way that Benigni’s La Vita Bella is a romantic comedy in the first half, and a most devastating drama in the second, so does La Stanza del Figlio come to a point where the mood has gone from day to night. Everything changes thirty minuted into the film, and the subsequent hour displays the fragments of a family contemplating whether they can ever be a whole again, and if so, how? The story is simple, but the existential implications of the film are anything but simple. The brilliance of the film is in the way that the actors deliver sublimely humane and all too real performances; everything is so natural - the grief is almost too real to want to comprehend. Morreti is truly a most talented and masterful observer of the human condition, and this is seen in his turns as director, writer, producer, and actor. The faults of this family are on full display, and even in its most despairing moments, Moretti’s film never verges on breaking into a soap-opera; something overly dramatic. The only thing that this film is “overly,” is overly humane. Possibly Moretti’s finest decision in the film is to include daydreams of Giovanni in which the events that led to Andrea’s death were different, thus resulting in him still being alive. The pain that comes with watching these moments is extraordinary. How guilty Giovanni feels! He blames himself for his son’s death. Also painful is how Giovanni’s mourning affects his relationship with his patients - other individuals in need of help, of moving on to a better life. This is a film about “man facing the universe,” and what we do to cope with the results of all the little tragedies that eventually make up a life. La Stanza del Figlio will change you, and devastate you with subtle gestures, the holding back of tears. The amount of love, compassion, suffering, and pain captured in this human drama is too great to put into words. You simply must see it. Feel it. The film rightly won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and it rightly deserves to win a place in your soul. I guarantee it will never leave you. I know it won’t leave me.