Review: Chiara

– VENICE 2022: Susanna Nicchiarelli paints a believable portrait freed from rhetorical traps of a revolutionary saint, as a girl and as a woman

Margherita Mazzucco in Chiara

In his latest feature film, presented in competition at the 79th venice festival and titled Chiara [+lee también:
entrevista: Susanna Nicchiarelli
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, Susanna Nicchiarelli has chosen to narrate something less than twenty years in the life of the titular saint. The story begins in Assisi in 1211, when the young Chiara, barely 18 years old (played by Margherita Mazzuccoknown for the successful series the wonderful friend [+lee también:
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), runs away from his father’s house to be with his friend Francesco (Andrea Carpenzano). After taking refuge in a convent, where she is accompanied by her little sister, Agnese, Chiara begins to live in poverty following the word of God with her sisters of the order.

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The film is spoken entirely in dialect, which makes it hard to follow at times, although the actors do an admirable job with the language and the result is quite natural and spontaneous.

Margherita Mazzucco stands out in the cast thanks to her seraphic and courageous portrayal of a girl and a woman who refuse to bow to family violence or pressure from Cardinal Ugolini, the future Pope Gregory IX (a cryptic Luigi LoCascio). All she wants is to live with her sisters in poverty and freedom, like the Franciscan monks. The actress also shows good chemistry with Andrea Carpenzano, with whom she maintains a friendly brotherly relationship that seems pure and authentic, although she is not exempt from conflicts. The pair become particularly notorious for the papal recognition Francis receives for his work. However, according to the pontiff, Chiara is not fit to “set an example” or preach the word of God outside the walls of the convent.

Their physicality perfectly suits their characters, while the rest of the cast refrains from offering overly emphatic or rhetorical performances. The result is truly remarkable, and hard to pull off, especially when you’re working with characters who mostly talk about miracles, compassion, spirituality, and acts of mercy.

Meanwhile, the film’s musical inserts, songs and dances, feel relatively organic and well-orchestrated. They are more like dramatic pauses than actual scenes, celebrating pivotal moments in history, such as the recovery of the elderly Balvina (Paola Tiziana Cruciani), for instance.

Nicchiarelli has resorted to Crystal Fournier for the direction of photography, marked by warm colors that enhance the expressiveness of the wrinkled faces of the protagonists, the polluted vegetation that surrounds them and the austere beauty of the religious buildings. The sequence in which the famous Canticle of the Creatures is recited, as well as the one that represents Chiara in front of the convent, surrounded by a flock of pigeons, are perhaps two of the most moving and inspired in the film, visually speaking. Furthermore, on more than one occasion, the space and the staging are presented symmetrically, with the actors facing the camera, clearly evoking the Christian iconography of the time.

The final scene could belong to another type of story and ends up transporting the viewers, at least for a few moments, to another dimension, decidedly more earthy and more modern in stylistic and musical terms. The ending works because of its simplicity, leaving the audience with a sense of peace and accomplishment.

Chiara is an Italian-Belgian co-production by Vivo Film, Tarantula Belgique and RAI Cinema. 01 Distribution handles distribution in Italy, while The Match Factory is responsible for international sales.

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(Translation from Italian)

Photo gallery 09/09/2022: Venice 2022 – Chiara

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Susanna Nicchiarelli, Paolo Briguglia, Luigi Vestuto, Giulia Testi, Carlotta Natoli, Paola Tiziana Cruciani, Flaminia Mancin, Valentino Campitelli, Andrea Carpenzano, Margherita Mazzucco
© 2022 Fabrizio de Gennaro for Cineuropa –,

Review: Chiara