The Consequences of Love [Le Conseguenze dell'amore]

| July 12, 2005

Paolo Sorrentino employs the language of film with poise and precision to create an elegiac and poetic prose, a hyper-reality that ostensibly looks real but feels like a dream. He utilises sound and aesthetics to create a quasi-spectral world, reflecting his main character Titta’s (Toni Servillo) own ghostly presence. Like an apparition Titta wanders the rooms and hallways of the Swiss hotel, barely making contact with its inhabitants, and even when he does the response is limited or non-existent. It is as if he has enforced this monastic existence on himself as punishment for some dark secret, his life in this hotel is a kind of purgatory. His punishment requires that he can watch but not participate, often sitting with his back to the events such as the hotel’s hustle and bustle and the counting of the money he deposits at a local bank. Even his own children can’t be bothered to speak with him on the phone
Unlike the other inhabitants Titta never laments his situation, accepting it without argument. Whilst other disenfranchised souls bitch about the failings of their lives or attempt futile efforts at human connection Titta silently observes all that takes place with a resigned weariness. He appears to be forced to stay in the hotel due to a past indiscretion, unlike the other guests who could leave if they had the courage but don’t. He plays cards with the old couple who lost the hotel in a bet, the husband cheating and demanding a spectacular death in equal measure, the fellow guest who attempts to strike up a conversation but just talks of the trials of being a salesman and his brother, a superficial bore who hits on the hotel waitress and attempts to grope her. The film expertly essays Titta’s detachment, as every distorted camera angle, every flowing movement and every sound (digetic and non-diagetic) reflects the perspective of a man who’s isolation has caused a sensitivity and exposure to every detail of mundane life that other characters take for granted.
He is almost devoid of personality or identity; his only vice is a shot of heroin once a week on a Wednesday, carrying out his drug taking in a precise and methodical manner. He suffers from insomnia, unable to sleep he exists out of space and time of the world around him, he even admits that normal human qualities such as imagination and desire have all but left him. The film also moves at its own pace, the narrative is never hurried and Sorrentino is quite happy to let the images burn into the camera’s eye. The characters offer philosophical statements on the nature of life and death, in a way that only European films can, yet these elements are poignant and subtle, brief and unforced. The erudite and exact nature of the dialogue aids in opening up narrative themes and advancing character development.
Titta initially has a certain enigmatic quality to both his past and his personality, not least because of a hidden package in the back of his television and the suitcase of millions of dollars that arrive at his hotel room each week. With his continental sharp-suited style it first appears he may be a cool, calculated hit man, but the film cleverly riffs on this as it becomes more apparent that he may be the business consultant he claims to be.
He begins to question his very being, for what is the point in living if you can’t enjoy life. Almost inspired by his brother’s naïve and simplistic ethos of hedonism, Titta approaches the waitress at the bar, speaking to her for the first time he claims this maybe the most dangerous thing he has ever done. And in a sense it is.
In line with the films existential theme, decisions and events have extensive and important reverberations. In letting the outside world into his life he in effect invites his past back into haunt him. His lack of contact with the outside world has left him somewhat awkward, he admits as much to his brother and his decision-making is clumsy, exemplified in his attempted wooing of the waitress by inappropriately buying her a car. However the biggest repercussion is more metaphysical as serendipitously the Italian mafia he has been working for arrive without warning, bringing him back into reality with a bump rather than the gentle introduction he craved from the waitress.
Two Cosa Nostra hit men use his room as a base as they carry out an assassination in the local area, which is intrusion enough, however this is only the start. Sorrentino creates a perfect balance between Titta’s efforts at re-socialisation, his tentative flirtation with the waitress, and the re-emergence of his past. The consequences of his love and desire for this woman is that he opens up, but this requires that decisions be made, and whether good or bad have to ultimately be accepted. It is the gamble on life that counts.
The films denouncement pulls no punches, carrying through its ideas as choices and events impact on one another to conspire towards a downbeat and prophetic conclusion, fully in line with the films somewhat pessimistic outlook. The beauty of the picture echo’s Titta’s new found courage and dignity.
Criticism has been levelled at the perceived flatness of its tone, however it is a film that requires investment from the spectator in its narrative, themes and technical qualities. And for this investment they will be richly rewarded. Essentially The Consequences of Love is worth taking a chance on.

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