The Consequences Of Love (Le conseguenze dell’amore)
Italy (2004) Dir. Paolo Sorrentino
I wish I could put my finger exactly what it is that makes some Italian movies so hit and miss for me. They usually do most things right that either appeals to me or has my appreciation but somehow, something fails to connect with me. The result is that I am left wondering if it’s my fault for not getting it.
The Consequences Of Love is one of those films although I really shouldn’t be too surprised since I didn’t get on too well with the other films I have seen from director Paolo Sorrentino, Il Divo and the Oscar winning The Great Beauty. Like those films, the lead actor is Toni Servillo, who plays Titta di Girolamo, a miserable loner who spends his days in a Swiss hotel, where he has been for the past ten years. He speaks with no-one outside of a bankrupt aristocratic couple with whom he occasionally plays cards, usually losing.
Titta has two regular rituals he fulfils without fails – every Wednesday at 10:00am he injects heroin, and every two weeks he takes a case full of money on behalf of the Mafia to a bank where it is counted by hand then deposited. Titta rings his family back in Italy, he ex-wife and three kids who refuse to talk with him, with only his outgoing stepbrother Valerio (Adriano Giannini) willing to see him while in Switzerland. Valerio encourages Titta to talk to younger barmaid Sofia (Olivia Magnani) and a tentative relationship forms between them.
It won’t seem like it superficially but this is a crime thriller of sorts since it features Mafia dealings, while the proposed May to December romantic subplot is more of a concurrent distraction in more ways than one. The problem is that the action and drama quotient is at a premium, surfacing mostly in the final act, adding a last minute burst of energy to what was previously a meandering stroll of a film.
The first forty minutes depict Titta’s ennui filled life, painfully precise in depicting the mundanity he has resigned himself to. His card playing couple seem to be equally trapped in some sort of depressing exile, but they at least put on a brave face – Titta never smile once throughout the entire film; in fact his voice barely rises above a soft whisper either.
It is only when Titta makes his trips to the bank that the solemnity of his daily drudgery gets a kick with the aid of some thumping techno music, a change of clothes into a snazzy suit and a ride in a smart car. Then it is back to boredom which even his weekly injections of heroin can’t seem to help lift the mood. Sofia’s eventually presence in his life fail to raise a smile but it does galvanise Titta into actual social interaction and a subtle change in his outlook.
There is a reason for Titta’s behaviour which isn’t explained until late into the second act, but one could be forgiven for not having the patience for not sticking around to find out. It is this varying level of endurance in the audience that will depend on how much one gets out of this film and the piecemeal narrative. There is no denying it is superbly shot and it seems the intention is to immerse us in Titta’s routine life as he does but as nice as the imagery is, one can’t help but wonder when something is going to happen.
Something eventually does when Titta finds two mafia hit men (Gilberto Idonea and Gaetano Bruno) helping themselves to his hotel room as a base for the next hit. This is rather comic in the nonchalant arrogance of the hitmen take over and Titta has little option but to capitulate. Unfortunately these two play will return to cause some problems for Titta later on.
This all makes for a great story but outside of the repetition, it represents probably a third of this 100 minute film, which is not a great ratio. If you look around this site you’ll see I’m no stranger to slow or artistically heavy films so I was able to go the distance and appreciate what Sorrentino was going for in his vision, it just felt like the plot was being ignored for too much of the run time.
Again the presentation can’t be faulted and Sorrentino has an eye for some unique and creative shot compositions, creating some extraordinary scenes in sharing Titta’s world with us. A particular sequence involving Titta injecting heroin is ridiculously simple yet effective in taking us deep into the experience without us having to poison ourselves to do so. The use of music is sparse but appropriately applied and when the need arises, the frantic camerawork does much to add to the drama and confusion of the final act.
At the centre of it all is Toni Servillo’s performance which is hard to explain. For roughly 98% of the film he gives absolutely nothing away about his character at all – we can’t tell if he is shy, introverted, depressed, inherently distrusting, a lifelong curmudgeon, or permanently strung out of heroin. He may be all of those things but Servillo isn’t going to let us know before the story does, which means he either has an easy job by not emoting or a tough one being so continuously blank.
Olivia Magnani, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the granddaughter of the legendary Anna Magnani and for such a pivotal character in Titta’s life, Sofia’s presence is shockingly underplayed. However Magnani provides the colour and energy to each scene that Servillo has to avoid and is a welcome distraction on both counts.
So I find myself frustrated by The Consequences Of Love in that Sorrentino’s preference for artistry over story doesn’t do justice to what is a decent story. By no means a bad film but it felt like the parts were greater than the sum.