Monday, November 23, 2015

Ivano de Matteo's screen version of Herman Koch's popular novel, THE DINNER, hits DVD

I hadn't read the novel (by Herman Koch) on which the award-winning Italian film, THE DINNER, was based. My spouse had, however, and he pronounced it a very fine film, as good as, though somewhat different from, that novel. The movie's tag line -- How far would you go to protect your children? -- should quickly bring to mind another Italian movie that hit US screens early this year: Human Capital. Both are, in their way, scathing critiques of Italian life today, though "Dinner" has the edge on "Capital" in some interesting ways.

First off, the film's director and co-adaptor (with Valentina Ferlan), Ivano de Matteo (shown at left), seems less interested in singling out for shame and reprisal the Italian upper classes and bourgeoisie than he is in offering up the human condition in all its complexity: love, anger, hypocrisy and occasionally even some self-examination.

The film begins with an act of road rage involving two drivers and one of their children and ends with a rather different sort of rage on a road. In between we meet those involved in that initial incident, as well as an extended family of two generations who find themselves also involved, from very different angles, in the results of that road rage. Before long, the family is also enmeshed in another, even darker and more unsettling incident that proves a much stranger example of, well, road rage again.

One of the strengths of this film is that it does not go where you expect. and when it goes elsewhere, it does so quite honestly and believably. It's a short film, too -- only 92 minutes -- yet in that time de Matteo and Ferlan lay their groundwork so well that there is no way we can say that the characters we are left with have not evolved from the characters we've been watching all along.

Those characters include two brothers, a highly-paid lawyer played by Alessandro Gassman (two photos up) and a pediatric surgeon (Luigi Lo Cascio, just above)

and their respective wives, Barbora Bobulova (below) and Giovanna Mezzogiorno (above). You will find your sympathies moving back and forth, but slowly, as character further reveals itself, goosed ever onward by the situation conceived by Koch in his novel and brought to fine life by the filmmaker.

Those children who (may or may not) need protecting are played all too believably by Jacopo Olmo Antinori (below, left) and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (below, right) and will make many of us parents want to take a second look at our own children, whom we may not know as well as we might imagine. The film will also make us take another look in the mirror and wonder what we would do under the circumstances found here.

This is the film's major achievement. It does not judge. It simply unveils. And it does this spectacularly well, with unusual economy and precision. The finale, in fact, is a case study in how little you need to show to make clear your point. The Dinner, distributed by Film Movement, arrives on DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, November 24. As with many of Film Movement's releases, the film will soon be available digitally as well, as it debuts on Netflix as of December 23.

No comments: