Swide looks through the filmography of this great living Italian actor, present at the Venice Film Festival 2012 in two films: “La Bella Addormentata” by Marco Bellocchio and “E’ Stato il Figlio” by Daniele Ciprì.
Venice Festival 2012: Toni Servillo, why I love you
My love for Toni Servillo is born of my weakness for the charisma of certain actors. They’re able to manipulate the emotions of a script in order to make themselves become the character, maintaining however that charismatic force that makes them who they are. It’s somewhat perverse, I know.
Anyway, I remember the day when it all happened: it was late spring 2001, I took refuge, alone, in a small cinema in Milan (which has now been closed to make space for a terrible clothes store) to watch the delirious film “Red Moon” (2001), by the Neapolitan director Antonio Capuano, already the writer of the controversial “Pianese Nunzio 14 anni a Maggio” (“Pianese Nunzion, next May 14 years old”), where, in an Italy ruled by the Pope, a 14 year old boy was loved by a priest from the South who fought against the Mafia. I had never met Toni Servillo before, as at that point in his career he had only had a bit part in the highly acclaimed Death of a Neapolitan Mathematician (1992) by the talented Mario Martone. Apart from that Toni had dedicated himself, heart and soul to the theatre.
Toni Servillo in “La Bella Addormentata” by Marco Bellocchio.
In “Red Moon” Toni Servillo plays the role of the son in law in law of an old Camorra boss, a character caught between the ferocious mafia culture and the search for modernity. The character has to deal with the rebellion of his young stepson, Oreste, who like in the Oresteia by Aeschylus, results in the whole family being dragged into a tragic blood, money, sex incest and death feud. Although the feud is right at the centre of that beautiful yet perhaps undervalued film- five more years had to pass before Robert Saviano’s Gomorrah would reveal internationally the omnipotent and perverse workings of the Neapolitan Mafia. Toni Servillo left me awe struck in the seat of the cinema, and from then on the love started.
From that moment on I began to follow Servillo with affection, I fished out the already distributed “L’Uomo in Più” (2001) “The Surplus Man”, by Paolo Sorrentino, in which Toni Servillo plays plays a singer at the end of his career, quiet ridicolous and tender. Our Servillo then went on to work with Paolo Sorrentino on two more memorable film: “Le Conseguenze dell’Amore” (2004) (“The Consequences of Love”) and “Il Divo” (2008).
The couple Servillo-Sorrentino makes up the excellence of a new, contemporary Italian cinema: set within the visionary culture of Fellini and Visconti, sensitive to the nihilist emotions required today and iconic in terms of the lateral distortion Italian cinema requires. In “Le Conseguenze dell’Amore”, Toni Servillo is a man stuck in the arid routine of his illegal job, that of emissary of cash to the frontier for a criminal financial lobby, and is convinced of his inability to love. Until one day, the small detail of the smile of a bar waitress melts his frozen balance, and creates a fire that will melt his bubble of inertia, resulting in a tragic finale.
Servillo is capable of burying his character in a masterful façade of apathy, and then, slowly smooth the sharp corners of indifference, until he flows into that desperation provoked by love, when it seems to late to put his destiny back into place.
“Il Divo”, which won the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 is one of the greatest Italian films of the 2000s. Toni Servillo plays the most powerful, ambiguous and popular politician of the history of the Italian Republic: Giulio Andreotti. He creates, with ferocious irony and poetic stolidness, a portrait of power which surpasses the frontiers of Italian history, and he sucks the viewer into the seductive trance of power, and the human incapacity to resist to the sweetness of the human nature.
In 2007 Toni Servillo is an Italian noir detective in “La Ragazza del Lago” (“The Girl by the Lake”), by Andrea Molaioli. It’s a story half way between a thriller and a psychological drama with emotional conflicts between a father and a daughter and a spiral of leads that wind like the movement of a music box, played, once again, with those talented sighs and eyebrow raises synonymous with Servillo. With the director Maioli, in 2011, Toni Servillo works on the film “Il Gioiellino” (“The Jewell”), which tells the story of one of the largest financial scandals of the era, the financial meltdown of the Italian milk multinational company, Parmalat.
Toni Servillo in “E’ Stato il Figlio” by Daniele Ciprì.
In 2008 Toni is the protagonist of “Gomorra”, the movie based on the highly acclaimed best seller written by Saviano and directed by Matteo Garrone. The film won the jury prize at Cannes and Servillo became consecrated onto the international movie scene.
In 2010 in “Una Vita Tranquilla” (“A Quiet Life”), by Rosario Russo, Toni is a repentant mafia boss who has made a new life for himself in Germany, changed name, married a German woman with whom he has another child. One day, Diego, his son from an earlier marriage during his criminal existence, turns up at his village as he’s supposed to carry out a hit for the camorra over there. Servillo once again mesmerizes with a character consumed in an emotional parable where he deals with the ghost of his criminal past and the compulsion to fall right back into the mafia violence.
At the Venice Film Festival 2012, which is taking place right now, Toni Servillo is present in two films: “E’ Stato il Figlio” by the desecrating director Daniele Ciprì and “La Bella, Addormentata” by Marco Bellocchio, together with Isabelle Huppert.
“E’ Stato il Figlio” is a provocatory and sarcastic film about a poor family who’s trying to get a refund after the little daughter was accidentally killed, all this told by the irreverent style of Ciprì. Bella Addormentata tackles the controversial theme of euthanasia, looking back at the recent events centred on an Italian girl and her family which caused many polemics in Europe.
Toni Servillo Official Site (italian)
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