In competition Aronofsky with “The Whale”, Crialese with “The immensity”. Capital tests for Brendan Fraser and Penélope Cruz

Every time he returns to the Venice Biennale Film Festival he leaves his mark, and his films ignite discussions and strong emotions. We are talking about the director Darren Aronofsky – Golden Lion in 2008 for “The Wrestler” – who in Venice79 presents “The Whale”, a film based on the play by Samuel D. Hunter which marks the happy return of Brendan Fraser in a poignant and stunning, not only mortgaging the Coppa Volpi but also the way to the Oscars. At the Lido it is also the day of the third Italian director in Competition, Emanuele Crialese, who presents his most personal film, “The immensity”, with a painful Penélope Cruz, trying to repeat the success of “Terraferma” of 2011, Leone d ‘silver.

The Cnvf-Sir point from the exhibition.

“The Whale” – in Competition
Almost twenty-five years of career and eight films made, of which five competing in Venice. We are talking about the American Darren Aronofsky, author of works with a marked narrative force, oscillating between disturbing and poetic, spiritual tones. Among his most evocative titles: “The Wrestler” (2008, Golden Lion), “The Black Swan” (“Black Swan, 2010) and” Noah “(2014). To these is now added the successful “The Whale”, which in Venice79 aims for a significant prize. Originally there is a play written by Samuel D. Hunter, who also wrote the screenplay for the film.

History. United States, today. Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is a fifty-year-old professor of literature, closed for a long time at home, in solitude, because he is extremely obese and difficult to walk. Charlie has an unhealthy relationship with food: he uses it in a punitive, self-destructive way. When his nurse friend (Hong Chau) warns him of his vital parameters now out of control, at risk of degeneration, the man realizes he has to recover the lost relationship with his teenage daughter (Sadie Sink, revelation actress of “Stranger Things”), that he has not seen since early childhood …

It is not easy to approach “The Whale”, as indeed all of Aronofsky’s films.

The author uses the scratch, a certain “ferocity”, to decline delicate and profound themes such as parental love, family, self-seeking, spiritual needs, confrontation with faith and the afterlife.

In “The Whale” we witness a tortuous journey from the darkest darkness to the most dazzling light, that of hope. In a delimited environment, Charlie’s claustrophobic apartment, the whole narrative takes place; there we find Charlie with a weighted, deformed body, like Herman Melville’s imposing creature – acute and engaging is the continuous reference to the novel “Moby Dick” -, beached on the sofa unable to conceive of tomorrow. When he feels his heart go wild, when he realizes he has little time, he does everything to find his daughter, to be forgiven. The dialogue between the two had been interrupted years earlier, when the man had left his wife, his home, declaring himself homosexual.On closer inspection, the film, although traversed by agitated and not a little problematic currents, emanates an enveloping, reassuring light: the light of forgiveness and mercy.

“The Whale” thus seems to stage a sort of modern Via Crucis, which turns unexpectedly towards Grace, giving no little emotion.
Brendan Fraser offers an interpretation of great intensity and humanity, finding the meeting with the general public after years of silent, fogged up; for him an extraordinary year is looming as it was for Mickey Rourke with “The Wrestler”, signed by Aronofsky himself. “The Whale” is a complex, problematic film for debate.

“The immensity” – in Competition
“Immensity is the film I have always pursued: it has always been ‘my next film’, but each time it gave way to another story, as if I never felt ready, mature, secure enough”. This is how the Roman director Emanuele Crialese presents his latest project, “The immensity”, the most personal. After the successes of “Respiro” (2002), “Nuovomondo” (2006) and “Terraferma” (2011), all focused on family and social issues, in particular on migration processes,

Crialese now faces his existential “migration”: the transition from woman to man.

He does so by composing a biographical story with the necessary narrative freedom, a script signed together with the screenwriters Francesca Manieri and Vittorio Moroni.

History. Rome in the 70s, Adriana, Adri at home (Luana Giuliani), is a twelve-year-old who rebels against her body and dreams of being a boy, of being called Andrea. In the family the father (Vincenzo Amato) shows impatience, open opposition; next to Adriana, however, in addition to the two younger brothers, there is the mother Clara (Penélope Cruz), a luminous woman, who envelops her children with tenderness despite experiencing a burning loneliness and depression in a marriage now broken and often with slips violent. Adriana and Clara try to save each other …

With “The immensity” Crialese talks about himself and his family, widening the field of gaze also to Italy in the 70s, the one that bursts with panache from the TV screen: the Rai performances by Raffaella Carrà (several times evoked in the film, even in Cruz’s haircut), Adriano Celentano – their enthralling duet in “Prisencolinensinainciusol” -, as well as those of Mina, Patty Pravo and Don Backy.

In particular, the film focuses on the mother-daughter bond, on two solitudes that travel like parallel lines exploring suffering, rejection, salvation.

“The immensity” is undoubtedly a dense, complex work, however governed with great attention and visual cleanliness; Crialese’s direction is confirmed in fact marked by composure and flashes of poetry. The film, however, perhaps suffers from an excess of control, to the point of stopping its growing pathos. Penélope Cruz, always impeccable, radiates a special light in the work, a sweet and understanding maternal aura. “The immensity” is a complex, problematic film for debates.

The critical note by Massimo Giraldi, president of CNVF – Signis Jury

“It is surprising to note how the two films of the fifth day of Venice79, ‘The Whale’ and ‘The immensity’, are closely linked by the same theme: the parent-child dialogue.

A theme, in hindsight, that runs through many titles on the bill. First of all, the film Aronofsky clearly presents us with the failure of a father who, feeling the shadow of death, desperately tries to re-tie the threads of his heart with his distant daughter. A difficult, at times ruthless labor, which however opens up the possibility of redemption. On the other hand, Crialese drops the mother-daughter relationship into a thorny and painful family situation, where the paternal figure is outlined in a macho and authoritarian key. The film focuses on listening and understanding in the family fabric, using a sober, elegant narrative, at times a bit predictable and accompanied ”.

In competition Aronofsky with “The Whale”, Crialese with “The immensity”. Capital tests for Brendan Fraser and Penélope Cruz