LA SAPIENZA (THE SAPIENCE) (Eugène Green, 2014)
209 West Houston St.
March 27 - April 9
New York City-born French filmmaker Eugène Green equates humanity and architecture in the lush, rich film La Sapienza. Named for the concept of gaining wisdom as well as Italian architect Francesco Borromini’s seventeenth-century Roman Catholic Baroque church Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, the film follows an older couple who rediscover their personal and professional passion after meeting a young pair of siblings. Architect Alexandre Schmidt (Fabrizio Rongione) and his wife, sociologist Aliénor (Christelle Prot Landman), are walking through a park in Switzerland when they see a teenage girl (Arianna Nastro) nearly collapse into the arms of a slightly older boy (Ludovico Succio). It turns out that Lavinia is suffering from incapacitating dizzy spells and is cared for by her brother, Goffredo, who is interested in studying architecture. Aliénor becomes involved in Lavinia’s situation while Alexandre, an intense, cynical man, returns to the book he is writing on Borromini (who famously worked in the shadow of Bernini) and travels to Italy with Goffredo as the boy’s reluctant mentor. Green’s (Toutes les nuits, Le monde vivant) first digital feature opens with the glorious sounds of Claudio Monteverdi accompanying cinematographer Raphaël O’Byrne’s magisterial shots of statuary and architecture in Rome. The acting at the start, particularly Rongione’s, is purposefully stiff and mannered, cold and stonelike, but it warms up as the characters learn (or relearn) about the myriad possibilities life offers. Green, who also appears in the film as the grizzled Chaldean, uses the metaphor of Baroque architecture’s role in the Counter-Reformation as a symbol for Alexandre and Aliénor’s relationship, as they finally face long-held emotions and reconsider their future, all while Green lingers on magnificent structures.