Veteran director Marco Bellocchio’s latest drama, “Bella Addormentata” [Eng. Title: Dormant Beauty] takes on the subject of euthanasia in a predominantly catholic Italy, by setting the film against a backdrop of real-life events in 2009, when the father of Eluana Englaro finally won the right to take her off the feeding tube that kept her alive in vegetative state for seventeen years following a road accident. It was a big news item in Italy that also prompted national and political debate.
The director presents three parallel sub-plots on the topic against the background of the Eluano Englaro case, using differing viewpoints. The first concerns the strained relationship between conscientious right-wing senator Uliano Beffardi (Toni Servillo), and his daughter Maria (Alba Rohrwacher) – a religious pro-life campaigner who travels to Udine to keep vigil outside the private hospital where Eluana is being weaned off the feeding tube. During her stay, Maria unexpectedly falls head-over-heels in love with pro-choice activist from the opposite camp, Roberto (Michele Riondino). It will take a while for the daughter, in deciding to answer her dad’s repeated attempts to get in touch with her. The second plot concerns a vigorously religious former film star (Isabelle Huppert) praying for her comatose daughter Divina. Separated from her husband and son, the actress is determined to revive Divina through her piety. The third story concerns Rossa (Maya Sansa), a suicidal junkie who enters the hospital to steal drugs, but is caught in the act, and ends up as a patient after slashing her wrists. Doting doctor Pallido (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) will lay at her bedside, to try and reason with her obsession to kill herself. The three tales, through varying degrees of success, reignites a debate on the controversial topic of a person’s right-to-die in a catholic Italy…
Bellocchio loves to weave his stories around historical events, like in his recently acclaimed Mussolini-biopic Vincere. But where as Vincere triumphs in terms of both its artistic and technical achievements, this film’s success is at best, marginal. Perhaps because of the ambiguousness in the characterisation, and partly because it must have simply run out of time, Bella Addormentata has left too many loose ends to complete the picture, relying instead on the various melodramatic moments to keep the audience engaged. It has however become an excellent vehicle for most of its lead actors, notably Toni Servillo and Alba Rohrwacher, to showcase their awesome talents – they dig deep into their characters to unearth more than what the screenplay otherwise offers.
The film does have its ‘Bellocchio’ moments however, like the cynical doctor openly offering the odds to colleagues as to how long Eluana Englaro will last, and the party psychiatrist (veteran actor Roberto Herlitzka) with his wisecracks and nuggets of wisdom. Bellocchio-regular – the beautiful and ridiculously sexy Maya Sansa adds a bit of spice to proceedings as the fiery but suicidal drug-addict. Ms. Huppert too delivers a well-rounded performance as the ageing actress determined to save her comatose daughter. The other noteworthy aspects of the film will have to be its impeccable cinematography and the appealing soundtrack. At least on these points, the film scores, and is Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Alba Rohrwacher
In the only scene of nudity, we see Maria, played by the exceptionally talented Alba Rohrwacher, with Roberto (Michele Riondino) spending the night in a hotel room. After telling him that she wants to be with him forever, Maria reassures Roberto that she isn’t really the clingy-type – that she’ll leave him in peace in a little while.