Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, A Castle In Italy details the plight of a French family to keep their titular holiday home where the now adult children grew up during the end of the aristocratic era. The film primarily focuses on the daughter Louise (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi – who also co-wrote and directs), an aging former actress who wants to have children with a much younger boyfriend, Nathan (Louis Garrel), whose father she had an affair with long ago.
Structured suitably enough around the four seasons, Tedeschi’s film is a mostly cold and gloomy look at family and the mid-stages of womanhood that, although touching on some truths and moments of great honesty, makes it extremely difficult for an audience to relate to the characters and engage with the story. A tendency to spill into melodrama that contradicts the intimacy established earlier doesn’t much help either. Nor does several antiquated and, at this point, cliché parodies of the Catholic Church ─ which while certainly not above satire ─ should at least be subject to more original barbs then the old nun who doesn’t understand anything modern day whatsoever.
The performances are perhaps the films saving grace. In Louise, Tedeschi has crafted herself a role that she can, and does, detail perfectly. Louis Garrel, as her younger lover, demonstrates the same youthful intensity he brought to Bertolucci’s The Dreamers and as Louise’s charismatic brother dying of HIV, Filippo Timi perfectly imbues an incestuous subtext while still playing the genuinely loving brother.
Far from a great film, perhaps A Castle In Italy may inspire more affection from a less demanding audience who can appreciate it for what it is, instead of the great satirical drama that it so wants to be.
A Castle In Italy is in Australian cinemas from 8 May through Sharmill Films.