Apr 17, 2011

DVD Review: Il Posto [U]

DIR: Ermanno Olmi
The Film
Il Posto, translated as The Job, is the working class tale of Domenico (Sandro Panseri) and Antonietta (Loredana Detto), two suburban youths who flirt with love while applying for "a job for life" at a big city corporation. Although the tests the applicants are put through are often bizarre and borderline satirical the film is actually an extension of Italian Neorealism, a popular movement that lasted between 1944 - 1952 and took in filmmakers such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica and Federico Fellini. The films in this movement were set amongst low-rent suburban areas, revolving around the poor and working classes, frequently casting nonprofessional actors in stories about the social and economic conditions of post-WWII Italy. Shot on location with a humanist moral code, these delicate dramas have provided some of the most magical moments in all of cinema. And although it appeared nine years after the last official Neorealist film, Il Posto can confidently be ranked among the best of the movement.

The first half hour revolves around the interview process - exams, puzzle solving and an aptitude test, involving some rather bizarre questions. "Do you suffer from frequent itching?"; "Did you wet the bed between the ages of 8 and 14?"; "Does the opposite sex repulse you?" But Domenico gets through it by catching a glance at the beautiful Antonietta, who by chance he meets in a café during their lunch break. Their attraction is obvious, but they are both guarded and shy. They are sweet and sincere, so we root for them.

Domenico gets the job and goes coat shopping with his mother, but all he really wants to do is see Antonietta again. There's a beautiful moment where he arrives to the building for his first day of work and, rather than waiting a few seconds for the elevator, runs up the stairs to the waiting room. She's not there, and crushing disappointment paints itself across his face. His one true hope seems lost. He sits, anxiously, suddenly realizing he may just become another lone cog in a faceless machine, without a pretty girl to get him through the day. But then through the door she walks, perky and draped by sunlight as she stands by the window, carefully glancing back to meet his devoted gaze. He walks over to her and they talk in muted tones. It's just small talk really, but it means the world to Domenico. The joy he's suppressing is unimaginable, but he keeps it wrapped up. This is perhaps the best aspect of the film - the naturalism of the performances.

The film has two cinematographers - Roberto Barbieri and Lamberto Caimi. They shade the film really nicely and give each location a unique sense of feeling. For example, the cold interiors of the corporation (white walls and wooden floors) match the silences that ring through its corridors, save for the occasional sound of plodding footsteps. But the streets are the polar opposite; illuminated and alive. When Domenico and Antonietta walk in the sun the camera has broader movement and the lighting is softer; there is a fluidity and sense of purpose. These scenes are, of course, more optimistic, and the cinematographers capture the feeling of flowering romance against a grim modernistic landscape.

The film threatens to end on a note of optimism with a New Years Party. As Domenico is leaving the house a radio broadcaster is reading the news. Included among the headlines is this snippet: "Some melancholy burglars give back their loot." But Antonietta does not turn up to the party and during the evening an office employee, who wanted to be a writer, commits suicide.

Under sad circumstances Domenico has now made it to the position of a clerk, but is moved to the back of the room under a dim lamp - a matter of seniority. The bulb is unreliable and the men sit in silence. On the sight of Domenico contemplating his fate Il Posto fades out with a bleak message: conform to the life you've been handed, sit up straight and be a sheep until the day you die. With this deeply powerful and heartfelt work Olmi has confirmed himself as a true great of Italian cinema, and I urge you to see it.

The Disc/Extras
The film looks great on DVD and the perfect remaster really serves the lighting well. No extras.

If you would like to buy Il Posto, and help 24FPS out at the same time, please use the links below. Note: the UK DVD is released on April 25th.

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