Review: ‘Spettacolo’

Hot Docs 2017

2 mins read

(USA, 89 min.)
Dirs. Jeff Malmberg & Christina Shellen
Programme: World Showcase


Capturing the inhabitants of a small Tuscan village as they prepare for their annual play, Jeff Malmberg and Christina Shellen’s Spettacolo shares with us a unique tradition. Stemming from the trauma of a Fascist roundup, the townspeople use their theatre to tackle personal and social issues they face within a form they call “autodrama.”

Spettacolo is a charming film, aided greatly by the warm, rustic village in which it is set, as well as the passion of the people who put on their play. The theater-folk are an aging community, many of them having worked in the autodrama for decades. The plays they put on take an artistically experimental style with great humour to openly discuss life’s difficult problems, in a brash and somewhat avant-garde manner. Yet between the pretty and comforting cobblestones of the town, and the laughs of the drama, there is a sense of anxiety and melancholy. The tradition of autodrama becomes strained as the younger people lose interest, and the older generation begins to pass away. Spettacolo celebrates the idiosyncratic manner in which the town creatively deals with its problems, but it also looks to the importance of cinematically capturing, and thus preserving, a culture, which is in decline.

On occasion the film feels too distant. There is never a deep connection to the village inhabitants, nor an extended look at their theatre. More interested in a meandering look at the village’s yearlong setup of the autodrama, the film can sometimes feel too long, and too cold, despite its very emotional subject matter. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating film which helps keep alive an original tradition of living through art.

Spettacolo screens:
-Saturday, May 6 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 12:45 PM

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