"You must demand to live in a better world... Don't be content to merely survive."
The warm colors, lovely performances, textured messages and thoughtful ideas that are layered throughout Ferzan Ozpetek's 'Facing Windows' will make you cherish cinema just a little bit more than you already do. It's a romantic treasure about unrequited love, familial responsibility, sexual longing and following the path in life that makes you happiest. The notion that you can really love someone else only when you've learned to love yourself may be a familiar one, but it is nice to be reminded every now and then. 'Facing Windows' is about all those things and the realization that the memories of those who truly touch our hearts can inspire us to live better lives.
Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and her husband Filippo (Filippo Nigro) have settled into life. They both have jobs that make them unhappy. She works as an accountant. He works the graveyard shift because he is too weak to ask his boss for a daytime slot. They argue about money, sex, time and work... There is a subtle sense that this is a marriage whose love is dwindling fast. Perhaps they are only going through the motions for the sake of their kids.
One morning, the two of them are walking home and cross paths with an elderly man (Massimo Girotti). He is utterly disoriented and has lost his memory. And despite Giovanna's protests, Filippo brings him back to their home for the night so that he can take him to the police the next morning in the hopes of unraveling the mystery. As complications ensue, that one night stretches to a few days. The old man experiences strange episodes, flashbacks of sorts, that reveal clues to his mysterious past. His actions lead to a meeting between Giovanna and Lorenzo (Raoul Bova). Lorenzo lives across the street from Giovanna and their apartment windows face each other. The sexual tension between the two is quite palpable as they have both been secretly watching and lusting after each other from their dimly lit windows.
Giovanna and Lorenzo's instant friendship swiftly moves to flirtation and then to a passionate kiss. However, Lorenzo's job is transferring him to another city very soon and Giovanna is put in an awkward spot having to make a very quick decision. Her heart tells her she should act on her feelings. Her mind tells her to be responsible. Nevertheless, the two of them puzzle over the mystery of the old man as they try to come to terms with their feelings for one another.
The beauty of this film is the way in which it balances many layers of story and character. Everyone in the film has something interesting happening in their lives and it all seems to revolve around the influence of the old man. These days, we are lucky if films give us one thing to think about, let alone many things. 'Facing Windows' (aka La Finestra di Fronte) is delightfully stimulating for both mind and heart.
I have to point out the performances in this film. 'Facing Windows' swept the David di Donatello Awards (Italian Oscars) for good reason. The film is brilliant but the performances are spectacular. Giovanna Mezzogiorno has vaulted straight to the top of my list of favorite actresses with her role here and in 2002's lovely film 'The Last Kiss' (L'Ultimo Bacio). She is the most dramatic actress I think I have ever seen, able to combine genuine fragility with a toughness and intensity that will give you goose-bumps. She has the most cinematically beautiful face I think I've seen and a talent that is remarkably rare. In just two films, she has earned my trust entirely... I will be first in line to see anything else she does.
Massimo Girotti is equally powerful as the mysterious old man. He is able to convey every necessary emotion in this tricky role. This was to be Girotti's final role before passing in 2003. It is a performance you won't soon forget.
Raoul Bova and Filippo Nigro are great in the secondary roles and round out one of the best ensemble casts of 2004.
'Facing Windows' is one of those aesthetically marvelous Italian films that sounds as great as it looks. It is fun and surprising, unpredictable and touching. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is a special actress who is fast becoming one of Europe's biggest stars. You will be seeing a lot more from her in the next two decades. I cannot recommend a film much more than this one.
I highly recommend you seek this film out in theatres because it can take forever for these foreign gems to hit DVD (Sometimes up to 2 years). 'Facing Windows' will vie for a slot in my year end top ten list and deserves your time and money. Make an effort to find this great Italian film!
TC Candler - Critical Mass Movies - www.tccandler.com
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