We can feel Krystyna Janda’s presence even when she’s not on screen, which is appropriate in Dolce Fine Giornata. Here she plays Maria Linde, a Polish Jewish poet living in Italy with a relatively happy family. Although it’s difficult to live that idyllic life in Italy. That country is, after all, experiencing hysteria related to the refugee crisis. Those dicey relations are on the subtext for minor interruptions in their lives, like when her grandson goes hiding.
It’s as if these minor disruptions exist so that the film can have a longer running time. But thankfully, this isn’t all filler where we watch Linde’s bourgeois family live their lives with little to no consequence. Some of these subplots are about teaching her daughter Anna (Kasia Smutniak) and grandchildren that their actions have unforeseen consequences.
Maria and Anna are the film’s central relationship, as they discuss language and politics like equals. But with the other family members, Maria is the picture of a capable matriarch. The script lets her impart her knowledge with economy. These better scenes start out with a few words, Maria’s teachings also foreshadowing what’s to come of her. So yes, this wouldn’t be a nuanced character if it didn’t establish a facade. Then it makes that facade completely crumble.
During the film’s very promising first act, it seems to like certain aspects of Maria and the other characters. It doesn’t shame her for having an affair with Nazeer (Lorenzo de Moor), an Egyptian refugee turned local restaurant owner. It especifically seems to like Nazeer, who has both the looks and intelligence compatible with that of a poet’s. He’s the model refugee, the reason Europeans open their gates to millions of them as if reasons must exist. Nonetheless, director-writer Jacek Borcuch films the scenes between then with a warmth that makes their relationship believable.
But as Dolce Fine Giornata progresses, it seems to go against the teachings that its characters are trying to impart. Linde receives an award and gives an acceptance speech that references a terrorist attack, doing so in poor taste. First of all, this plot point should have taken place earlier instead of the film using it as a climax. Second, her speech apparently ruins her storied career, comparing such controversies with the real live ones that Michel Houellebecq experienced. But it’s as if the only way to show her ruin is by making fer family members talk about. These discussions between her and Anna are plenty. But it never feels like the walls are closing in on them.
And sure, Borcuch, ever the traveler, photographs Italy marvelously, the silent, picturesque ideological battleground between Maria and the world. It’s too bad the the fallout from her speech seems frustratingly inert, her erratic actions seeming like anecdotes. Borcuch’s camera, and therefore storytelling, becomes more distant just at the times when we need closeness with the characters. He could have taken advantage of how some throwaway lines can affect someone with a storied past like Maria’s. It’s as if he’s trying to be subtle or ironic. But the end result is a film with no emotional impact.
For more information on Dolce Fine Giornata, go to https://www.filmswelike.com/films/dolce-fine-giornata.
- Release Date: 10/17/2019