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Happy as Lazzaro

Alice Rohrwacher

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Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders) returns to our screens with a film which defies explanation. With one foot in rural realism and the other in magic imagination, this is a strange, beguiling, marvel of a film. It won’t be for everyone but if you fall under its spell, you are in for a delight.

"...blends realism with a dream-like state which would make Fellini proud"

The film opens almost as a folk tale with a couple declaring their love as traditional music plays in the background. It feels as if we have stepped into a small Italian village of long ago. But gradually, as the trappings of modern day start to appear, it becomes clear that these inhabitants are blissfully unaware that time has moved on. In the small town of Inviolata, all the inhabitants work on for the wealthy Marquesa (Nicoletta Braschi). It turns out that the families on her estate are essentially modern-day serfs or sharecroppers, forever in debt to their feudal exploiter, but blithely unaware of it. Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) is a naive and optimistic twenty-year-old farmer; Tancredi (Tommasso Ragno) is a young man with a fervid imagination. Between the two is born an unexpected friendship that above all, for Lazzaro, turns out to be an important moment of growth. Over time, they face many difficulties together, until Tancredi vanishes into the city, and Lazzaro sets out to search for him.

Definitely a film of two halves, Happy as Lazzaro blends realism with a dream-like state which would make Fellini proud. Featuring characterful performances by the director’s sister Alba Rohrwacher and the charming Sergi Lopez as con artist Ultimo, the film blends humour and bleakness effortlessly. Beautifully shot on location in rural parts of the Viterbo and Terni regions and cities including Milan and Turin, Happy as Lazzaro plays around with time and space in the most carefree way.

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