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Corpo Celeste

Directed by Alice Rohrwacher.
With Yle Vianello, Salvatore Cantalupo, Pasqualina Scuncia.
Italy/Switzerland/France, 2011, 35mm, color, 98 min.
Italian with English subtitles.
Print source: Film Movement

Rohrwacher’s debut feature follows a young woman uprooted from her childhood home in Switzerland and disoriented in an unexpectedly wintry Southern Italian community seemingly defined by religious piety and ritual. As she enters the final stages of her Confirmation training—a series of lessons led by a stressed teacher named, appropriately, Santa—the young girl’s spiritual preparations are confused with the changes at work in her own adolescent body, one of several minor miracles that Rohrwacher treats with touching gravity and with the symbolic poetry suggested by the film’s title. Adopting the girl’s outsider gaze, Corpo Celeste captures the gently awkward comedy of harried adults trying to fulfill their responsibilities while also lending genuine mystery to religious ritual and iconography. The first of the absent father figures that recur across Rohrwacher’s films, the distracted priest who reluctantly bonds with the girl is also an embodiment of the film’s subtly ambiguous exploration of devotion.

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