{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Son's Room

Kieslowskian blue grief has turned white. A family losing a block and readjusting the newly found grief into their settled lives. A missing block leaves space, filled with grief instantly, heavy sadness. A stanza taken out of a poem and the poem trying to shuffle words and get a life. A vacant room filled with undiscovered memories, life refusing to let them go or let you out.

Nanni Moretti's (known as Italian Woody Allen for his comedies) Palme d'Or winner, The Son's Room is an honest contemplation on loss and grief associated with it. It bends objectivity, the endgame of giving easy solutions till the pebbles under the viewer's heart start rolling and breaks it. A reason to the grief, the questions like 'why me', different ways to come to terms with loss give way to an acceptance and filling in of the empty spaces, mending the broken time.

Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) is a middle aged psychoanalyst who is good at giving easy answers and some solace to his clients, but like his clients, he do share the fact that he is not doing them full justice. His beautiful wife Paola (Laura Morante) works in an art publishing house and is the mother of two teenage children, Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice) and Irene (Jasmine Trinca).

Film starts by showing the family where everybody is friendly and open, and everybody has some secrets, in short a healthy happy family where there are chuckles at the dinner table and father and son go for long walks. All this calm and light family atmosphere is contrasted by the patients at Giovanni's clinic and the way Giovanni listens to them, always calm, almost uninterested, and very objective, giving comforting placebos to them. Giovanni deals his family with more compassion, an unassuming bourgeois happiness. The grief and illness of his patients and his inability to connect to it and his objectivity that every problem has a solution, strikes back at him, later in the film.

Here the tragedy strikes the family. The shot preceding the tragedy are in Keislowski's tradition. Each member of family is shown nearly missing an accident except for the son, Andrea, who happily boards a scuba diving boat, all geared up and smiling but actually gets into an accident. Unprepared, the family is pushed into a death zone. Giovanni, along with grief, struggles with some guilt because he canceled a run with his son to go on an appointment to his hypochondriac client. He also tries to find out the reason for his son's death, fault in the equipment, gas running out but a slight mystery surrounds and more than that it doesn't give him any comfort from the encompassing grief. As objectivity eludes Giovanni and he is more and more consumed my his own grief, he decided to leave his practice. Irene vents her anger with pulling up a fight at her championship game, which result in her month long suspension from the team. Paola finds other ways to fight it, by talking about Andrea but trying to shut the chapter, it too doesn't help. There are signs of family breaking since the happiness has faded away, sorrow pushing the family member to disconnect, pushing them to weep in bedrooms, changing rooms, all alone, secretly. They do the rituals, they organize a funeral mass to shut the doors to grief, but it tickles into closed chambers, tickles out of the sealed coffin of Andrea, into closed rooms, through some unknown letters, some new pictures, some old secrets, fossilized grief lives.

With surface simplicity, without ringing forced, the film moves to the family's coming to terms with Andrea's loss. They now know that memories will keep coming back, unlike Andrea. Its so cliched to write it but the film manages to do it without any unexpected twists and turns. There is a small indication in the film about the externalization of grief and how it helps the family to accept the loss like a healing, a therapy.

There are some brilliant scenes in the films. Lots of the scenes are at Giovanni's clinic where patients tell their stories and their funny fetishes. After Andrea's death, when a patient tells a happy story of her husband and her kids, Giovanni bursts into tears. The scene where Irene asks to see Andrea for the last time in the coffin. The scene where Giovanni goes to a carnival park to forget or rather vent out his grief, feels isolated and left out in the colorful happiness. The scene where Giovanni finds out that every thing in his home is broken, the fact that he never noticed or even cared in the happier times. One more thing to note in the film is its background score, which compliments the films so beautifully that you seldom consider it out of it. The song in the last scene where the family stands near the sea, although a bit mushy, sounds solacing to the ears.

The film is a tear-jerker without intentionally trying to be so. There are so many muted emotions, repressed grief that the viewer comes forth to drop the tears for the family, be a part of the their grief, their catharsis, moaning for Andrea without knowing him but by knowing what he meant to the family, a missing block in the puzzle of happiness and a cavity for eternal memories to come where we try to cave in, like his family, his friends.

The Son's Room, with all the sorrow and grief, shows how the dead never dies, and how we continue to live with them, manages to be subtlety bright and uplifting. For the sentimental types, its highly recommended but for the emotionally glaciated, its a must see.


Alok said...

"emotionally glaciated"? huh...

Indrajith said...

Each member of family is shown nearly missing an accident except for the son, Andrea, who happily boards a scuba diving boat, all geared up and smiling but actually gets into an accident.

Nice "Build-Up". I have not seen this in any indian films. Might be we can expect one soon. :)

anurag said...

There is also an excellent 'Build-up' for a road accident in Fat Girl towards the end. That accident never occurs but some other horrible thing happens.

km said...

"Dear Diary" was such a terrific film too (but "The Son's Room" remains my favorite Moretti film.)

anurag said...

km; I will try to see 'Dear Diary' asap. Thanks for the recommendation.