Saturday, 20 April 2013

REVIEW - DORMANT BEAUTY


An intelligent, ambitious but wayward ensemble piece, centred around the real-life case of Eluana Englaro - a complex story of a woman in a coma and the moral, religious and political debate on whether or not she ought to be legally mandated treatment. Brush up on your history before this one, Dormant Beauty is not going to fill in the gaps for you. Indeed, Marco Bellocchio uses Englaro's story to fill in the gaps in his narrative, which concerns a number of plot strands, some inter-connected, most only connected by Englaro. As a means of bridging several sub-plots, this is innovative and successful, much more so than the contrived solutions offered up in many similar films. A lack of clarity doesn't diminish the potency communicated in the myriad of arguments, often subtly presented, and always integral to the corresponding character. A smart cast picks up on the riches in Bellocchio's screenplay, and contributes to each sub-plot functioning on its own terms, in its own way. The issue lies with the film Bellocchio tries to craft out of each of these. One particularly troublesome one involves a suicidal drug addict and a devoted doctor (who looks so like Patrick Dempsey it's extraordinary), which becomes muddled and blunt, weighed down by over-elaborate philosophical dialogue and supposedly thought-provoking moralising, which is handled much better in the other plots. On the other hand, Isabelle Huppert appears in another, which is enough to recommend it to the highest. She has the ability to blaze through so little as a sideways glance, and is only becoming more beautiful with age. Bellocchio's visuals are nicely varied, and his sound mix crisp and immediate, but much of this feels like stylistic intrusions on a human story, as do occasional moments of crass comedy.