Dirs/scr Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza. Italy/France/Switzerland, 2017. 122′
Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza made their names with Mafia thriller Salvo at Cannes several years ago, and now return with another Sicilian-set slow-burner that adds teenage romance and Gothic fantasy to their signature Mafiosi mix to create this modern day Romeo & Juliet style fantasy drama.
This is a stunningly crafted, magical fairytale enriched and heightened by the visual wizardry of Luca Bigazzi (The Great Beauty) but despite its touching storyline and convincing performances SICILIAN GHOST STORY slightly outstays its welcome in telling the truth-based tale of teenager Giuseppe Di Matteo (Gaetano Fernandez) who was kidnapped in 1993 in order prevent his Mafia supergrass father, Santino, from spilling the beans. His ordeal is seen through the eyes of little Luna (Julia Jedlikowska), who holds a constant candle for her schoolfriend so bright, that the two form a psychic connection throughout his captivity, as he clings to her letter as his guiding light to salvation.
With its echoes of Grimm’s Fairytales (the enchanted wood) and Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (through the girl’s red duffel coat) the directors pay homage to best examples of fantasy meets reality. The film also recognises the fact that children escape into a world of fantasy when reality becomes too traumatic for them to cope.
Bigazzi intensifies the drama with his masterful techniques enhancing the vibrancy of Sicily’s landscapes and interiors with heady and luscious hues. At atmospheric soundtrack harnesses the ambient sounds of the forest to amazing effect. And newcomers Julia Jedlikowska and Gaetano Fernandez bring extraordinary intensity to their roles as Luna and Giuseppe in this thematically well-managed and enjoyable slice of Sicilian recent history. MT
BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2017 | 4 -15 OCTOBER 2017 | Cannes Review