Small Body: review of the film by Laura Samani

Small Body movie 2021

Fresh from victory at the European Film Awards 2022 – where the prize was awarded Discovery – Fipresci as a revelation for the debut film, Small Body from Laura Samani stages the miraculous journey of a young woman in search of a spiritual reconnection with a part of herself that seems to have lost forever. Suspended between the visual refinement of fantasy and the historical one, which investigates the folklore of Friuli Venezia Giulia, the film by Samani he also won the Donatello’s David 2022 Best New Director.

Piccolo Corpo, the plot: the sanctuary of hope

In northeastern Italy, at the beginning of the 20th century, a young woman named Agate (Celeste Cescutti) is in shock after her first child is stillborn. The priest tells her that the child is destined to wander in Limbo for eternity, with no hope of reaching Heaven, since she died before being baptized.

Despite this, Agatha discovers that there is a church somewhere in the north where a priestess with supernatural powers can bring a dead child back to life for a single breath, enough to baptize him and raise his soul. Agata unearths the child under cover of darkness and leaves with the small casket tied to her back, like a pilgrim; she in the forest she befriends the feral figure of Lynx (Ondina Quadri), who will be her only friend on her desperately tiring and dangerous journey Small Body.

The voice of the sea

Agate he speaks through the voice of the sea: the sounds of an infinite expanse of salt water are sap for his vocal cords, they group together to give life to a new linguistic code. It is the idiom of love, the indissoluble one, which permeates every bush and stretch of path that Agata crosses. The daughter of Agate, according to the beliefs of the time, has no name, therefore, it does not belong: it is condemned to remain in an indefinite time and space, the dark blue of the oceanic depths. However, the small body of the title is of such dimensions only in factuality, not in terms of its meaning. It is an arboreal, maritime, terrestrial body, which unites the two lines along which the concept of femininity travels in the film – those of “mother” and “daughter” – precisely in its belonging to nature. It comes from nature and will return to it: the purpose of this creature’s saving journey is immediately associated with the certification of her identity, with the act of naming and sanctioning her belonging to the landscapes of the Friuli Venezia Giulia early 20th century.

A scene from Small Body

human naturalism

In Small Body, Laura Samani chooses to embrace the more spiritual traditions of his region, referring to the history of the sanctuary of Trava, which still exists today and where, originally, rites were carried out to bring back to life stillborn children, just the time of a breath, that necessary to baptize them to avoid permanence in Limbo. In this way, the talented director elaborates the perfect modus operandi for making great genre films in Italy – similar to The land of the children (2021) by Claudius Cupellini: starting afresh from our roots, those unknown to most, but which fit perfectly with the imagination. A lively directorial hand is needed, which follows the rhythm of the breeze in the trees on which Agate And Lynx they leave their imprint to trace a story in which each theme connects to its opposite – death becomes rebirth, mountains become sea, ice becomes water – fortifying the idea of ​​an absolute connection between body and spirit, man and nature.

Lynx becomes the perfect shoulder to accompany Agate on his journey; this androgynous figure, a variation of the bad wolf of the woods but which slowly takes on almost fairy-like connotations, interpreted by Ondina Quadri simply sublime. In an unprecedented passage of witness, in which the maternal strength has more to do with the spirit than with the very act of giving birth, Lince becomes a fundamental character, who renews even more the union with the natural landscape of the characters of Small Body. She gets to bond with nature otherthe sea that a mountaineer like him has never known but to which he irrevocably feels he belongs: a breath is needed to make him understand.

Small Body: review of the film by Laura Samani