|Not of This World
[Fuori dal mondo]
The Italian selection for the 1999 Best Foreign Language Academy Award,
Not of This World centers on the unlikely relationship between a religious,
Sister Caterina (a luminous Margherita Buy), and Ernesto, a nerdy, self-absorbed
laundry owner (Silvio Orlando), who are brought together by a newborn. Director
Giuseppe Piccioni takes great care to allow this central bond to unfold in a
sensitive, almost poignant manner. Both principals have lessons to learn and
each is brought to a new understanding through their interaction.
Caterina is a year away from taking her final vows but she is headstrong in
her determination to serve God, despite the misgivings of her mother and the
concern of some of the older nuns with whom she lives. She has her life essentially
planned out and expects to fulfill her duties as a missionary. In the meantime,
she commutes to Milan to work with the poor in a soup kitchen. On her way to
work one day, she is literally handed a child who had been found by a
chain-smoking jogger. The baby, only a few hours old and wrapped in a sweater,
awakens her latent maternal instincts. Without fully understanding why, Caterina
is driven to find the baby's mother and starts by tracking the owner of the sweater.
Her search leads her to Ernesto's establishment.
For his part, Ernesto is a loner more concerned with providing quality service
and making money than in forming lasting human connections. Just as the child
strikes a chord in Caterina's life, she serves as a catalyst in Ernesto's. Running
parallel to this main story is the tale of Teresa (Carolina Freschi), a young girl
from a clearly unhappy family. Her mother feigns concern over her daughter's
absence from home yet has renovated her bedroom for her own use and her oily
stepfather clearly has more than paternal feelings for her (Piccioni makes this
clear with just a few gestures and Freschi's pained expression). There is a
common bond that links these three characters -- not the least of which is that
Teresa worked for Ernesto and that Caterina and Ernesto both believe he is the
abandoned child's father. Gradually these separate stories finally come together
in a surprising but satisfying manner.
Not of This World unfolds slowly and deliberately. Caterina faces a minor
crisis of faith; her maternal instincts awakened, she only wants what's best for
the baby boy (dubbed Fausto) yet like any good parent, she has to know when
to let go. Buy perfectly captures Caterina's dilemma yet doesn't make it
melodramatic or overblown. Her sensitive performance goes a long way to making
the film watchable. Matching her is Orlando who physically resembles the late
Peter Sellers. In one of the director's inversions, it is his Ernesto who blossoms;
in other films it would be Caterina but here Ernesto undergoes the most radical
of changes. The possibility of fatherhood awakens a more genial and caring side
to his personality. Freschi is saddled with the most difficult role. An audience
could be forgiven for not having sympathy for a young girl who abandons her
child and then begins to rekindle a love affair but this screen newcomer makes
Teresa's plight moving and understandable. There are also incisive performances
from Maria Christina Minerva as a chocolate loving postulant, Sonia Gessner as
the somewhat cold Mother Superior who plants the seeds of doubt about her
vocation in Caterina's mind and Giuliana Lojodice as Caterina's mother.
MPAA Rating: NONE
Running time: 100 mins.
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.