Padrenostro is an award-winning movie for the best subject at Nastri d’Argento 2021. A well-deserved award. I watched the movie by chance a few months ago, and I found it really beautiful, in many ways, but the thing that struck me in particular was how the director managed to represent the inner life of the main character, Valerio, an 11-year-old boy who witnesses a terrorist ambush of his magistrate father, Alfonso, by a proletarian armed group.
It seems a “distant” story (it is set in the Years of Lead, summer 1976) but instead the look is very contemporary.
You immediately enter in a rarefied atmosphere, the “cloak” of violence of those years looms, the adults are too busy on facing their anxieties and Valerio is “forgotten”, he is alone, and he invents imaginary friends to survive this loneliness.
In the ambush the attacker dies, while Valerio’s father doesn’t die, but the whole family is worried that the ambush can be repeated and if possible, they become even more absent. And Valerio, a “bourgeois” boy, shy and introverted, finds a new friend, Christian, a little older and completely different from him, more confident, scruffy, more “proletarian”, that at a certain point “materializes” and during the whole movie it’s not clear whether Christian is real or just Valerio’s fantasy.
Through his friendship with Christian, Valerio manages to “survive” the anguish of adults, his own anguish that something may happen again and he also manages to find a way to get close to his father and have some of his time. And this friendship, poised between the real and the oneiric, seems as if it represented the possibility of rejecting violence and overcoming the class opposition and the hope of being able to live the affections.
I will not reveal the end of the movie, not to spoil, but I can say it gives meaning and “warmth” to the whole movie. And I can also say that the movie is based on an experience truly lived by the director as a child, which the director has transformed into art by reconciling with his anger and fear towards the attackers, telling that the relationship with the “proletariat” (more metaphorically, with the different) can save life and not destroy it.
Why did I tell all this in this blog? First of all because I liked to tell about the possibility of transforming traumatic events of one’s life into art, the possibility of not losing curiosity and trust in human relationships and not reacting by anguishing and closing oneself in (like Valerio’s parents) or with resignation, or with hatred or anger towards those who “hit” you. I liked to tell about this artist (the director) who elaborated his own experience and reinvented it, with imagination, rejecting an ineluctable destiny that would see him “believe” in the violence suffered as the truth of the human being, and that would see him consequently hate his “enemy”, returning them hatred and violence, or be eternally afraid of them, directing the violence suffered towards himself.
But the other consideration that came to my mind, which may seem forced, but which to me sounds a lot, is the parallel with what we have experienced (and that we are still partly living) with this pandemic.
It sounds to me the parallel with an external “enemy”, which can kill or anyway hit you and your family and the reaction of many adults, who have “forgotten” the kids and their (legitimate) anxieties, their needs of relationship, who have not “seen” them, too busy handling their own (still legitimate) anxieties. And unfortunately not all of the kids were able to find the same imagination as Valerio, and look for the relationship wherever it was possible to find it. And they closed in on themselves, without reaction, maybe becoming “cold” and losing the hope of being able to “demand” an answer.
And so, I liked to throw this rope, tell a success story to throw a little life vest to lean on to take a breath to continue swimming while looking for the imagination to react, a life vest for adults, to find the strength to look at the kids and say, “don’t worry, I’m here”, a life vest for the kids, to have the courage to say to the adults, “hey, look at me, I’m here, and I need you around”.
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article