Friday, 7 March 2014

Days and Clouds (Giorni e nuvole) (2007)

A comfortably rich couple are financially ruined and in the devastation of the Italian economy, find themselves sinking down the class ladder faster than their cash is running out.

He’s a director of a company he set up with his friends in his youth. She’s a housewife who, at her age and his wealth, goes to school to do an art history degree. Except he just lost his job, and is basically unemployable in the current economy. They’re the sort of people who’d never spent a day poor.

The film basically puts the golden couple through the degradation and psychological horror of downward mobility. Imagine the horror: she needs to perform meaningless part-time work for money instead of restore frescoes for free, while he goes from chasing underpaying managerial positions to taking odd jobs from unemployment agencies! What will their friends think? Will they be able to live with themselves like this? What will their declasse, petite bourgeoisie son-in-law think of them now? Can their marriage last?

While the premise indicates a dark or even morbid Marxist comedy of class manners (and there’s even an extended interlude where the help offered by their friendly new neighbours at a housing project are misread with comic consequences), director Silvio Soldini and his creative team choose to tell the tale as a straight drama.

In other words, expect many scenes of degradation and humiliation, of characters wallowing in self-pity, handling each setback with increasing dismay, and going into BSOD mode. The film is interested in portraying the horror of losing control and self-esteem and does it very well, but is far less interested in the implication that the ideas of control and self-esteem are bound to class, wealth, and distinction, or questioning how the holders of such ideas may adapt or abandon them in the face of irreversible downward mobility.

In so avoiding this less-taken road, the film is left free to lurch towards a more sweet-than-bitter ending that feels a little false, despite the emotional intensity of its performances.

No comments: