Friday, September 26, 2014

The Wonders

The Wonders is playing on October 3 and 4 in the New York Film Festival.

Alice Rohrwacher returned to her hometown for The Wonders, an emotionally rich tale about the countryside between Umbria-Lazio and Tuscany and the people who live there. Strong forces, epitomized by an annual TV contest called "Countryside Wonders" that awards people who "represent traditional values," want to turn the region into what amounts to an Etruscan theme park, encouraging farmers to conform to an image of the past as constricting as the campy wigs, gowns, and headdresses worn by the contest's hostess, Milly Cantena (Monica Bellucci). But people like the freethinking family of beekeepers at the center of the story have other ideas.

The family consists of a blustery German father, Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), a quietly wise Italian mother, Angelica (played by the director's oldest sister, Alba Rohrwacher), their four daughters, and Coco (Sabine Timoteo). Coco's relationship to the rest is never explained (there are hints that she may have joined the parents years ago for an experiment in communal living and never left), but that's hardly the only unconventional thing about them. Prizing freedom and hard work, the family eschews harmful chemicals, flouts sanitation and child labor laws, and aims for an egalitarian existence in which everyone does his or her share of the work and Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu), the oldest daughter, is considered the head of the household, though she's just 12 years old. The appeal of their self-contained life is easy to see (the land always seems bathed in golden light and the sea cobalt blue, and when they're caught in a rainstorm the wind is fierce but exhilarating), but so are its demands. The work is strenuous and ceaseless, and there's rarely money for anything but the essentials.

Read the rest on Slant Magazine

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