Dolce Fine Giornata
Krystyna Janda, Lorenzo de Moor, Kasia Smutniak, Antonio Catania
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… may accentuate the angst that comes with navigating a foreign setting, while for others, it may serve as a lacklustre attempt at quasi-political commentary.
With its philanthropic undertones and convincing performance from Polish cinema royalty Krystyna Janda, Jacek Borcuch’s arthouse film finds purpose in the form of disobedience and a reliance on Orientalist thought – no matter how inflated it may be.
For what it’s worth, Borcuch (a filmmaker who is no stranger to movies about subtle rebellion and social turmoil) paints a perplexing picture of libertarianism-gone-rogue. Maria (Krystyna Janda) is a Polish-born poet who seemingly has it all: a villa in Tuscany, people who admire her, a well-nourished family, and a Nobel prize for her work in literature. Her life is ideal, yet Borcuch uses her and her prestigious, well-off status to tear down the fabricated and idealistic frameworks by which we live.
The news of a suicide bomber detonating in a crowd of tourists in Rome is what helps drive the film into more sensitive terrain as Maria – upon accepting an award from the town mayor – seemingly labels the terrorist act as a form of art. Her almost ambiguous speech is met with disconcerted reactions and an immediate tainting of her reputation.
It’s hard not to view the speech as radically didactic jargon, but then again, that’s exactly what it is – a form of expression that doesn’t make sense to others and leads Maria to be chastised.
Maria sits in a world of her own, no matter how well integrated she is, and that is the focal point of the film – to highlight the often frail paradigm by which we judge character. Sure, her moral standpoint is controversial and questionable, but the absurdity of it is what allows Borcuch to evaluate Western attitudes towards outsiders.
Following this moment, Borcuch subtly, but eloquently turns his film into a neo-Orientalist text that strives to bridge the gap between the ‘Other’ and the ‘Occident’. Maria, though in a prime position of wealth and status, still sits as an outsider in the vast and open land of Tuscany. She is married to an Italian, Antonio (Antonio Catania), but finds solace in the handsome and intelligent Egyptian emigrant Nazeer (Lorenzo de Moor). She sacrifices safety and security for recklessness and ‘otherness’. She feels that Nazeer sees her like no one else does, which ties in issues of identity and the false pretences by which we live our lives; there is an appeal in being something other than what you are or what others believe you to be.
To an extent, her growing desire for freedom – in expression, in mobility – echoes past protagonists in French experimental films with the likes of Mona from Agnès Varda’s Vagabond coming to mind. Though it would be unfair to compare this protagonist to that of one from an influential feminist text, Maria is far from the perfect protagonist – much like Mona – which makes her all the more ideal.
It would also be unfair to disregard the picturesque visual quality of the film, as it is instrumental in understanding just how alienated Maria feels in the vastness of the world. Michal Dymek allows the camera to act like this invisible observer in motion as he captures the openness of the green landscape, but also employs a much tighter frame around Maria. Much like Maria’s belief that her old body is like a dress she wears, Dymek’s cinematography adds another layer of restriction to her – ultimately foreshadowing the less than emphatic closing sequence.
For people of the Pan-European diaspora, Dolce Fine Giornata may accentuate the angst that comes with navigating a foreign setting, while for others, it may serve as a lacklustre attempt at quasi-political commentary. Regardless, Maria’s outspokenness leaves her with the knowledge that there is no point in pretending to be something you’re not, which isn’t to say there is no harm in trying.