The Italian entry for the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Don’t Tell,
adapted by Cristina Comencini from her novel “La Bestia nel cuore (The Beast in the Heart),”
which in turn was inspired by a real-life account of a brother and sister coping with a childhood
When the film opens, Sabina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), an actress making a living dubbing TV
shows and films into Italian, visits a cemetery to arrange for the movement of her parents’ remains.
Her latest work involved providing the vocals for a particularly graphic rape scene. Somehow these
two seemingly unrelated events gradually lead to a series of nightmares – ones that telegraph her
“secret” to the audience long before she herself comes to realize it. The dreams unsettle her live-in
boyfriend Franco (Alessio Boni), a theater actor who feels he is selling out by accepting a role on a
popular TV series (not unlike the American show ER as if it were produced for HBO).
Sabina also counts among her circle Emilia (Stefania Rocca), a childhood friend who
happens to also be a blind lesbian and who harbors a crush on Sabina, and Maria (Angela
Finocchiaro), a director coping with the end of her marriage after her husband left her for a much
Instead of talking about her troubles with her lover or her friends, though, Sabina becomes
convinced the only person who can answer her questions is her brother Daniele (Luigi Lo Cascio),
now residing in the United States and teaching at the University of Virginia. So, she sets off on
a visit at the Christmas holidays.
The tale then follows three arcs, with Sabina and Daniele in America coming to terms with
the events of their past and the legacy it has left them, Franco vainly fighting temptation and
sleeping with a co-worker (an event predicted by Sabina before she leaves on her trip) as well
as developing an odd friendship with the TV show’s director who has aspirations to make films,
and the blossoming of the unlikely romance between Maria and Emilia, which was partly
engineered by Sabina who brought the two women together.
Undoubtedly because of its literary pedigree, the screenplay (attributed to Comencini,
Francesca Marciano and Giulia Calenda) includes a great deal of portentous symbolism and on
occasion veers into melodrama. The actors struggle to make the material viable and each does
yeoman work, but there’s something missing. Perhaps because the audience is clued in early,
there’s little suspense. The film suffers from excesses in some scenes and too much restraint in
In reality, Don’t Tell is rather a mediocre film, and one has to wonder if this really is the best
that Italy produced in the past year. If so, then Italian cinema – with a heritage that includes Fellini,
Visconti, De Sica, Rossellini and Olmi, to name but a few – is undergoing more of a crisis than
MPAA Rating: R for for sexual content, nudity, language and a brief violent image
Running time: 120 min.
Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room
(La Bestia nel cuore/The Beast in the Heart)
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.