The Missing Star

The Missing Star


Reviewed by: Susanna Krawczyk

The Missing Star has attracted a good few comparisons to Lost In Translation, dealing as it does with a foreigner who comes to an exotic, oriental land completely unversed in the ways and mores of the culture he finds himself in. This is perhaps inevitable, but while it shares much with Sofia Coppola’s Oscar winner, it is by no means simply an Italian Lost In Translation.

For one thing, although our protagonist Vincenzo (Sergio Castellitto) does indeed find himself in a foreign land, searching for recognition and companionship, and perhaps finding it in a younger woman (Liu Hua played by Ling Tai), he does not lack a purpose in his wandering: he is bound and determined to fix a problem with the blast-furnace that an unknown Chinese factory has bought and transported from Italy.

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Whether he acts from genuine concern for the welfare of the workers who will be injured by an accident if one occurs, or from pique and self-righteous anger at not being listened to in the first place, his zeal brings him to a place he has no frame of reference for. Finding the stubborn and secretive Liu (and realising that his actions in Italy may have cost her her job) he engages her as guide and translator and they set out to find Vincenzo’s fabbrica.

Like Vincé, most of us in Europe, when confronted with it, would be unprepared for the vastness of such a country, the volume and variety of people within it. His quest brings him into contact with the poor factory workers of China who bring their kids to work because there is nowhere else for them to go, and because their help is essential for the smooth running of the factory. He sees many problems that his mechanic’s hands cannot fix, and so he must keep searching for the blast-furnace that is the one thing regarding which he perhaps can make a difference.

As an English-speaker, something I notice when watching a film in which an English-speaking character is trying to make themselves understood in a place where no one speaks their language is a tiny voice in the back of my head saying “Surely someone will understand them! After all, it’s perfectly understandable to me.” Change that character’s language to one that is not my own, however, and that voice is silenced. The feeling of isolation is felt all the stronger, and the phenomenon of non-verbal communication is more visible.

One more thing about this film is shared with Lost In Translation, and that is its vaguely ambiguous ending. We know something of Vincenzo, something of Liu, but nothing of what they will do next. That’s okay, though. It was the journey that was important.

Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2007
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A man travels from Italy to China searching for an obsolete machine, but finds something else.

Director: Gianni Amelio

Writer: Gianni Amelio, Umberto Contarello

Starring: Sergio Castellitto, Ling Tai, Angelo Costabile, Hiu Sun Ha, Catherine Sng, Enrico Vanigiani

Year: 2006

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: Italy, France, Switzerland, Singapore


Glasgow 2007

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If you like this, try:

House Of Sand
Lost In Translation