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Don't Move
cast: Penélope Cruz, Sergio Castellitto, Claudio Gerini, Angela Finocchano, and Marco Giallini

director: Sergio Castellitto

117 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Warner Vision DVD Region 2 retail
[released 19 September]

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
Margaret Mazzantini, is the authoress and scriptwriter, adapting her own work for the screen here in Don't Move (aka: Non ti muovere). But that is hardly enough for the woman, for through the 19-minute supplementary film that acts as an apropos prose diary to the making, all we need is its transcript and I am both redundant and embarrassed. In truth I was ennobled when a couple of minutes into this support feature Mazzantini strolled out the comment "Life is a collection of empty, missing boxes," as in spiral notepad there was already a phrase jotted: 'beautifully boxed and layered.' This film is like a standing unit, with drawers opening, revealing contents that tell a story, only for them to be then shut again, to move to another drawer telling an older or more recent part of the story. We all have those drawers, sectioning our past, never conclusively, not telling the whole story of that year, that home, that country, that month, that love, though for reasons of tidiness, it might one day be settled for that aspect of your life story, the rest of the information dispelled or nudged out. Eventually every drawer has been checked and what appears to be the whole story is there. Don't Move does move and coolly so, and smoothly goes between the past and the present, between the grubby and the antiseptic, from the classy to the drab and back as it reels out the story of Timoteo (Sergio Castellitto, who also directs with great capability), a surgeon with the smart blonde wife at home and the downtrodden, vulnerable brunette on the sly.

The film opens on a false note, the scene of a road accident, a young girl's prostrate and broken body seen in an overhead shot from long. The camera is creeping down amidst the rain but it is a downpour that is real up close, fake from aloft, simply not kicking up the fine splash mist that it should. It is one of few errors. In the accident and emergency department it is realised that the girl is Angela, Timoteo's daughter and the drawers of the past begin to open involuntarily, as he recalls the car trouble that strands him in a rundown district and an encounter with Italia (Penélope Cruz), a young woman wracked by the daily grind, residing in the last house on a regeneration site. Italia's days there are numbered as her late father had done a deal on the house, the monies of which have not reached her, unexplained, perhaps he under-priced himself to a crate of gin. Timoteo subjects Italia to an aggressive sexual assault and distastefully gets away with it because, to her, it is the norm following the sexual abuse given her by her father, not to mention Timoteo's developing love for the girl when she repeatedly accepts his forceful advances on his repeated return visits.

Cruz is a surprise, uglying up for the role. The actress is given a new nose, her front teeth are gapped (the cheat is revealed in close-ups; the old stage trick of a bit of black stuff down the middle), scary make-up is whacked on, to which she incorporates the bow-legged walk of a heavily pregnant woman or an overtime whore, though the stomp is, one guesses, a natural exhaustion from the result of eeking out a living.

Don't Move is a dark-hearted movie, gluttonous on cruel about turns. As the story proceeds gaps are plugged that it was not realised had existed. The supplementary gifts on the disc turn up yet more of these not missing and found moments, with four cut scenes, summating time-wise in an additional seven and a half minutes of material that should be there, that should have been kept, even having originally gone unnoticed. Once seen, the excised scenes have you realise how the surrounding sequences fell short, normally in character behaviour to a situation. How could Italia be left unnoticed and unbothered at the dining room table at the convention, an attractive woman alone in a hotel predominantly full of male professionals miles from family? Where was that pivotal scene that saw Timoteo's wife turn from the selfish to the maternal? Why did the death room scene and Timoteo and Italia's little game of doctors and nurses appear so respectively abrupt? Now that the answers have been pointed out in the supporting material, they just beg to be put back in, to essentially complete the movie.

Images and moments on the burr of the surreal dot the drama... a wet swimsuit on a line hangs like a shed torso... the heavy symbolism of a lost red shoe... and all the pretty little images come beautifully framed by cinematographer, Gianfilippo Corticelli. The make-up stars again in the subtle addressing of the 15 years each side of the story... the actors needed passing for early thirties and late forties respectively. The songs chosen for a film that (in essence) begins in the 1980s are unfortunate. The decade may have been naff, and to be true to the decade you can't argue with the track, but Europe's The Final Countdown is an overly ruinous intruder on the proceedings. Leonard Cohen and gentle piano try to make up for it, but there is too much of the anthem pop and rock of the era, even when it comes from an Italian band of the time that you have no reason to recognise as a British islander. Cruddy rock and pop was then international.

There is on the disc behind-the-scenes footage, a gallery, the trailer and an interview with Cruz, in addition to the Mazzantini diary and deleted scenes already mentioned. It is an incredibly successful and intelligent work, but unlike other feature films involving, or revolving around, dubious acts, no matter how more obscene or explicit those other movies might be, few try for immoral closure. The tragic love story that this evolves into doesn't sit comfortably with Timoteo's unforgivable admission of rape, no matter how far back in the narrative of the film, and excused by the victim, it was.

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