Friday, March 27, 2015

Una recensione di “Il nome del figlio”, film diretto da Francesca Archibugi

di Olga Lenczewska


La maggior parte delle discussioni, specialmente quelle che avvengono durante una bella serata tra amici, svaniscono presto senza lasciarsi dietro importanti conseguenze. Questo non è vero, però, nel caso del litigio che apre il nuovo film di Francesca Archibugi, “Il nome del figlio”, remake italiano della pellicola francese “Cena tra amici”. Concentrandosi su una singola scena “indoor”, tipica della rappresentazione teatrale (una scena che non è, comunque, statica), “Il nome del figlio” mostra come uno scherzo innocente possa evolvere in modi imprevisti, sfidando le opinioni comuni su certi “tipi” di persone e rivelando segreti e atteggiamenti dei protagonisti che essi non vorrebbero mostrare. 

Nonostante siano cresciuti insieme, i protagonisti sono molto diversi. Paolo è un “self-made man”, un affascinante agente immobiliare di successo. Sua sorella, Betta, insegna al liceo ed è una mamma molto impegnata, mentre il marito di Betta, Sandro, lavora all’università e non presta molta attenzione alla realtà oltre i libri. Il loro amico single, Claudio, è un musicista eccentrico che ha assecondato i suoi sogni adolescenziali. La moglie di Paolo, la giovane Simona, è l’autrice di un romanzo best-seller con i classici atteggiamenti da “diva”.

I flashback occasionali rivelano gli anni dell’adolescenza di Paolo, Betta, Sandro e Claudio, e raccontano i conflitti con la generazione precedente, quelli che oggi hanno i loro stessi figli. Ma con il tempo la vita dei protagonisti cambia e insieme muta anche la prospettiva attraverso la quale vediamo le loro relazioni.

Il litigio comincia quando Paolo svela quale sarà il nome di suo figlio. Questa scelta controversa diventa lo sfondo per una discussione ideologica, che si trasforma presto in un argomento molto personale. Benché Betta, Sandro, Paolo e Claudio si ascoltino con attenzione e provino meticolosamente a risolvere il conflitto appena emerso, ciascuno di loro ha una parte di sé che gli altri non comprendono. Sandro aspira ad essere trattato al di sopra degli altri perché è un professore e conosce le materie umanistiche molto bene, ma purtroppo non è capace di applicare quello che sa alla propria vita: non capisce sua moglie e vive una vita parallela tra romanzi e social network, perdendosi la vita vera. Betta, completamente dedita ai suoi figli e al marito, è sempre più fiaccata dalla routine della vita quotidiana. Paolo, invece, è orgoglioso di esser un elegante uomo d'affari, liberale e moderno; tuttavia sua moglie Simona di lui non apprezza altro che l’aspetto estetico, non ha nemmeno letto il suo romanzo!

Nonostante la loro complessità, i quattro vecchi amici sembrano più “in gamba” del quinto personaggio, Simona, che rimane alquanto estraneo fino alle ultime scene. Solo alla fine del film si comprenderà, infatti, la sua capacità di “leggere” i commensali, comprendendone i dolori e soprattutto aprendo gli occhi sul loro snobismo e sulla ristrettezza di vedute che dimostrano; per esempio, quando giudicano il libro di Simona banale senza neppure averlo letto, oppure quando dipingono troppo frettolosamente Claudio come omosessuale.

“Il nome del figlio” è una buona e sofisticata commedia che vi farà ridere, ma allo stesso tempo interromperà la tendenza a giudicare gli altri attraverso schemi prestabiliti e sulla base di pregiudizi, e vi incoraggerà a riconsiderare il vostro atteggiamento verso gli altri. Uscirete dal cinema con animo nervoso, ognuno in modo diverso, e ciò che vi renderà nervosi sarà proprio quello che dovrete rivedere nella vostra vita.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

70 years after. Auschwitz in the eyes of Primo Levi

Primo Levi
by Olga Lenczewska


In 2015, the year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, it is important to remember the significance of those events, in the hope that they will never be repeated. In the United Kingdom, a new documentary on the liberation of Auschwitz has been recently released. André Singer’s documentary “Night Will Fall” uses original footage collected by the soldiers in 1945 and powerfully reminds us of how easy it is to live unaware of the tragedies which take place in a country neighbouring one’s own. It is also worth reminding ourselves about literary testimonies from that time, amongst which prominently figures Primo Levi’s ‘Se questo è un uomo’ [‘If this is a man’] – one of the most crucial books on Auschwitz ever written.

What was Levi’s goal when he was starting to write ‘Se questo è un uomo’? Why did he decide to immerse himself in the horrifying experience once more, and again and again, writing about it so much during his whole life after Auschwitz? Would it not have been easier to simply forget, or at least try to forget? The author answers these questions himself in the preface: ‘Il bisogno di raccontare agli ‘altri’, di fare di ‘altri’ partecipi, aveva assunto fra noi, prima della liberazione e dopo, il carattere di un impulso immediato e violento, tanto da rivaleggiare con gli altri bisogni elementari; il libro è stato scritto per soddisfare questo bisogno; in primo luogo quindi ha scopo di liberazione interiore’.

From the very moment when Levi decided to write not only a testimony, but a collective description of the Auschwitz imprisonment on behalf of those who died and cannot speak for themselves, it was clear that his work would be much more than just an account of his days in Auschwitz, in the centre of events that shaped the modern Western cultural legacy and changed the way we look at the man. Levi underlines the need to both remember and sanctify those who died in Auschwitz – the need that existed inside him during his time in the death camp and was nearly as strong as the hunger or cold. To save himself from Auschwitz was not enough; to save the others meant to write about the sufferings and to consecrate them. ‘Auschwitz mi ha segnato, ma non mi ha tolto il desiderio di vivere: anzi, me l’ha accresciuto, perché alla mia vita ha conferito uno scopo, quello di portare testimonianza, affinché nulla di simile avvenga mai più’, Levi writes in the afterword to his book. By passing the essence of his memories to future generations the author attempts to ‘normalise’ his experience, which he himself finds hard to believe in. It is only when he realises that he must write about his past that he undergoes an ethical turn from involuntary to voluntary memory.

In one of the most important chapters of the book, ‘I sommersi e i salvati’, Levi raises the moral problem of salvation. Who could be saved? How could one be saved? Who deserved being saved and why did I survive? These disturbing and repetitive questions indicate how hard it was for Levi to remain unemotional, not to go beyond a mere description of facts. He portrays the prisoners and the whole Lager society through philosophical aspects such as ‘the value of man’, ‘the value of human personality’, ‘the value of moral responsibility each of us towards others’. Moreover, the author analyses people as equal human beings, paying no attention to the ethnic categories that were in fact crucial to the Nazis. The discourse, carried out in a way that leads to universal ethical statements, is therefore separated from the Auschwitz law. In ‘I sommersi e i salvati’, he compares the Lager’s set of rules to a juridical system. He also, almost academically, defines Auschwitz as a perfect example of injustice, providing a historical and biblical context for his hypothesis: ‘Nella storia e nella vita pare talvolta di discernere una legge feroce, che suona ‘a chi ha, sarà dato; a chi non ha, a quello sarà tolto’. Nel Lager, dove l’uomo è solo e la lotta per la vita si riduce al suo meccanismo primordiale, la legge iniqua è apertamente in vigore, è riconosciuta da tutti’.

In ‘Se questo è un uomo’, Levi truly engages the reader in his philosophical discourse and the description of the loss of human dignity. His work is subjective, coherent with the facts (although not always chronological), and at the same time truly academic, as it manages to philosophically analyse the Holocaust phenomenon. Such a range of various approaches allowed him to create an original book that cannot be labeled as just one literary genre. Thanks to Levi’s determination and faith, we can now be aware of what had happened not that long ago and what can happen in the future if we do not respect each other, for, as it wrote Bruno Bettelheim, ‘Those who seek to protect the body at all cost die many times over. Those who risk the body to survive as man have a good chance to live on’.


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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Giuseppe Ungaretti’s war poetry of solitude and solidarity

Giuseppe Ungaretti
by Olga Lenczewska


Ungaretti was born in Alexandria, where his Italian parents moved to find a job at the construction of the Suez Canal. Although they were from Lucca, Tuscany, the poet has not visited this or any other place in his home country until he was an adult. Having completed education at a French school in Egypt, he went on to study at Sorbonne in France. The first collection of Ungaretti’s poems, L’Allegria (The Joy), consists of his works from the period of First World War (1914-1919). Most of the poems from the collection present antitheses, such as happiness-sadness, life-death, nationalism-cosmopolitanism, or solitude-solidarity. In Ungaretti’s view, poetry cannot evolve in a static environment, and to write about the essential human experience is to wander well beyond the habits and boredom of everyday’s life. It is constant energy and movement that create true poetry, and the essence may be captured beyond the words only if they are full of tensions, antitheses, and dilemmas.

When First World War began, Ungaretti decided to be a soldier that he was able to get closer to his country by fighting at the Italian front in Carso. That was when he saw Italy for the first time. Due to distinct lack of one national identity and not feeling particularly attached to any country or tradition, Ungaretti faced an identity crisis and longed for national roots – cultural basis that would grant him a foundation for his literary expression and values. He considered his life and journey as a sort of nomadism, perceiving himself everywhere as straniero and admitting in one of his poems In nessuna / parte / di terra / mi posso / accasare (Girovago). As his poetry always expressed his direct experience and feelings, solitude in his writings manifests itself in this very experience of not having a fixed identity and constant need to search for a home. Solidarity, on the other hand, is linked to the poet’s experience of war as a soldier, where he had to cooperate with other soldiers who were the witnesses of the challenges and extreme situations he faced and who were undergoing similar to him internal changes.

To give a practical example of the dichotomy of solidarity and solitude in Ungaretti’s war poetry, I will briefly analyse one of him poems, Fratelli. This meditative poem draws its inspiration from a meeting between two patrols of soldiers. Even though war is an antithesis of peace, Ungaretti pictures the two patrols as groups of fragile people facing the same drama of fear, tiredness and uncertainty as to what is going to happen tomorrow. Thus, the poem is a description of a situation that unites the war partisans in the same experience and feelings. Their moral frailty is represented by a synecdoche of trembling words (Parola tremante / nella notte) and metaphorically expressed as a young leaf trembling in the shell-convulsed night air (Foglia appena nata). It is this very situation and war context that enable the soldiers realise how little and vulnerable, when facing the universe and the wheel of history, they are. The scarcely born leaf hints also to the fact that many of them are young and inexperienced, which makes the First World War a background of their process of becoming fully grown up. This notion of losing the opportunity to have a normal youth can be found also in Italia, where Ungaretti defines himself as il frutto (...) / maturato in una sera – somebody who, because of the war context, was forced to grow up too quickly.

The title of the poem gives primacy to a single, crucial word fratelli, which means both comrades and brothers. The notion of brotherhood shows how close the soldiers are linked, almost as if they were one body. Solidarity and strength unite the soldiers against their own precariousness and fragility. On the other hand, there is a single solider (uomo) to whom his fragility is presented. We can thus see the tension between a singular intense experience of sinking the existential individuality of a lonely and fragile person which is contrasted by the plural fratelli that symbolizes the solidarity of a brotherhood discovered in the tragedy of war.

As Ungaretti believes it is constant tensions between words and concepts that create true poetry, solitude and solidarity are never separated from each other and every poem that deals with these themes is a philosophical journey through human existence and crucial for life experience. As a poet, Ungaretti wanted to be heard by many of us and to do that he constantly searched for his national and cultural identity and roots that would grant him a foundation for his literary expression and values, for only by doing so could he pass this experience to future generations and stay close to his own feelings and dilemmas. His collection L’Allegria reflects thus what he thought to be true poetry: Ogni vera poesia risolve miracolosamente il contrasto d’essere singolare, unica, e anonima, universale [Ungaretti, Vita d’un uomo].

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