The Hand of God – Film Review
by Frank L.
Director – Paolo Sorrentino
Writer – Paolo Sorrentino
Stars – Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo
Set in Naples in the 1980s, this is a semi-autobiographical story of Sorrentino as he traverses life as a young man in Naples. Sorrentino was born in 1970 and in 2013 his La Grande Bellezza won the best foreign-language film at the Academy, the Golden Globe and Bafta. Here he portrays himself as one Fabietto Schisa (Filippo Scotti). His father Saverio (Toni Servillo) is a bon viveur and his mother Maria (Teresa Saponangelo) is a practical joker which makes for a family of diversity. His journey is strengthened by his elder brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert).
Naples at the time is in love with Diego Maradonna who has raised SSC Napoli from comparative obscurity in the world of soccer to one of prominence in soccer-mad Italy. The sheer delight of Naples is shown when Maradonna scores in 1986 the infamous goal for Argentina against England in the World Cup; Sorrentino depicts a mass of crowded balconies where everyone is celebrating Maradonna and his goal. But like many things about Naples that goal had its shady side too. It is this difference that is one of the complexities which inspires the young Fabietto to the world of filmmaking. Naples with its beauty and tawdriness provides a wealth of other complexities for the young Fabietto to grapple with.
There is his aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri) blessed with substantial nipples who likes to sunbathe naked but is in a particularly abusive relationship with her partner. There is Baroness Focale (Betty Pedrazzi), who lives in the apartment above, who appears to be a remote figure but shows Fabietto an unorthodox approach to something less remote. This being Naples there are a host of other characters whose relationship with the law is complex. There is also tragedy as death enters into Fabietto’s young life. Sorrentino, therefore, brings his audience on a roller coaster.
Sorrentino takes a great delight in the city of his childhood. Early on there is an enormous traffic jam with nothing moving and cars blaring their horns. Somehow he manages to make this unlikely and unpromising scenario the occasion to introduce us to Patrizia and he does so as she is waiting for a taxi. It is an unlikely sequence but it works. There are several storylines running through the film with the story of the emerging filmmaker having to compete with others. This is of course exactly how life is lived. There is not a highlighted path to follow. There are therefore many changes in moods and sequences, but what is constant is the visual beauty of what is depicted.
The film lasts two hours and ten minutes. Perhaps it is a little long and the film might have benefitted if the number of situations that Fabietto is confronted with had been reduced, but that is a small quibble. Sorrentino has created a visually rich film with a young man trying to find his place in the world. He has done it with style and humour and he often brings a smile to your face.