Take Him To The River: Our Review of ‘Kidnapped’

Posted in Theatrical by - June 13, 2024
Take Him To The River: Our Review of ‘Kidnapped’

A Jewish family from the 1850s Papal States lose one of their family members in Marco Bellocchio’s Kidnapped: the Abduction of Edgardo Mortara. The film inadvertently starts out as a Biblical metaphor, where kidnappers take that family member, Edgardo Mortara, upriver. He’s like Moses, whose estrangement to his community eventually leads to challenges within what was once a powerful state. But just like analogies, there’s a possibility that certain things may or may not line up as perfectly. As a boy, Edgardo (Enea Sala) gets the attention of the once powerful Pope Pio IX (Paolo Pierobon). But as Edgardo grows up (Leonardo Maltese), will he be part of historical changes or be one against it?

The film doesn’t take the Pope’s side, but it’s good that it finds a balance in its depictions as it takes time to depict the Jewish community in the Papal States, one that the Mortaras must rally. Members of the family include Edgardo’s father Momolo (Fausto Russo Alesi) and his passionate mother Marianna (Barbara Ronchi). Helping them are Edgardo’s older brother Riccardo (Samuele Teneggi) and great uncle, Angelo Padovani (Andrea Gherpelli). Angelo updates Momolo that Edgardo is happy under the Pope’s custody which, to the Jewish community, is a bad thing. As I wrote above, Kidnapped takes the Mortaras’ side, but conversations add nuance towards groups who have similar goals.

Before watching Kidnapped, I’m sure most people know about the many atrocities that the Catholic Church inflicted. It’s interesting that I and many Canadians are becoming aware that the Church also broke up Jewish families. If anything, Jewish families and other Europeans were the test subjects for atrocities they committed elsewhere. It goes without saying that the writing here is competent as a priest tries to gaslight Marianna. The priest performs stoicity to make Marianna look like an aggressor in front of Edgardo, which doesn’t immediately work. And of course, Ronchi’s performance as Marianna is a standout in a film in a cast that comprises mostly men.

Kidnapped has a lot of similarities with Bellocchio’s other film, The Traitor, especially with its big set pieces. A hide and seek scene featuring the Pope and young Edgardo transitions into years later where riots threaten the former’s power. Just like The Traitor, there’s a court scene, this time around Momolo pleading his case to the emerging Italian Kingdom. Both are also about strong figures sailing into old age, unable to hold on to their might. As I write all of this, the film’s message about the evils of the Catholic Church feels like one that may not surprise viewers anymore. It’s also lacking The Traitor’s bombastic strokes, although it’s understandable that a muted approach may be more appropriate for a more historically obscure subject matter like this.

Watched Kidnapped in select Canadian theatres.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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