The Right Distance

The Right Distance


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The art of ensemble filmmaking is to know when to make the switch from one storyline to another. As Hemingway said about the business of novel writing: “Always end a day’s work when things are going well.” One of the many qualities of this beautifully orchestrated film is writer/director Carlo Mazzacurati’s deft juggling of emotional tensions within a small town setting in the Po river flatlands.

Although set up as a first person narrative by teenage cub reporter Giovanni (Giovanni Capovilla) as he observes little local dramas, such as a serial dog murderer and the arrival of Mara (Valentina Lodovini), the new primary school teacher, whose youth, beauty and sophistication takes everyone by surprise, the emphasis switches, with infinite subtlety, from one character to another.

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This technique is enhanced by exquisite cinematography and a brooding sense of foreboding, which for a while remains no more than a mote in the mind’s eye. Mara rents a converted farm building outside the village, which for many women on their own might be a scary prospect. Even when she discovers that Hassan (Ahmed Hafiene), the handsome Tunisian garage mechanic, has been stalking her, she takes the initiative and confronts him. Meanwhile, Giovanni has hacked into her laptop and is reading her emails, giving him unique access to her thoughts and opinions.

At some point – maybe now – the question arises, where is this going? Mara is only filling in at the school before travelling to Brazil with a girlfriend. Already she has made a more powerful impression on this socially deprived community than she can possibly imagine. Will they let her leave?

Mazzacurati’s control over the many plot strands is masterful. Just when you think you know someone, you don’t. Beneath the surface of these rural stereotypes runs a vein of bigotry and suspicion. First impressions belie the charm of their setting and pride proves as dangerous as desire.

Giovanni’s editor offers sound advice concerning a reporter’s objectivity. “Journalists who give in to feelings are screwed,” he warns. The right distance is to stand far enough away to see the full picture and yet close enough to touch the heart.

Reviewed on: 10 Apr 2009
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When a new teacher comes to a small rural town in the Po river flatlands it sparks a tale of obssession and mystery.

Director: Carlo Mazzacurati

Writer: Doriana Leondeff, Carlo Mazzacurati, Marco Pettenello, Claudio Piersanti

Starring: Giovanni Capovilla, Valentina Lodovini, Ahmed Hefiane, Giuseppe Battiston, Stefano Scandaletti, Ivano Marescotti, Fabrizio Bentivoglio

Year: 2007

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy


Italian 2009

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