DVD Review: Quiet Chaos (Caos Calmo) (2008)

17 May

Ben Buckingham finds boredom chaotic and contemplates the advantages of being a writer/producer/actor in Quiet Chaos.

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Quiet Chaos opens with two men, the middle-aged Pietro (Nanni Moretti) and his hunky younger brother Carlo (Alessandro Gassman), playing a game of beach tennis. It’s light hearted; it’s fun; it’s the everyday. This is suddenly shattered by cries for help. Two women have been swept out to sea and are drowning. The scene is tense; it’s too early in the narrative to predict if someone will drown. The violent struggle of the drowning woman combines with the constant waves to put one on edge.

And then it’s over, and no one notices that it was these two brothers who saved them; life goes on. This isn’t the high-point of the film, thank goodness, but it prepares the viewer for an intriguing and dramatic film that never eventuates. It’s all set-up with almost no pay-off. However, it is all good, solid set-up, which makes it difficult to dislike the film.

Of course, the drowning woman will inevitably return, but until then Pietro must contend with the death of his wife who suffered a fatal fall while he was away being an unnoticed hero. His young daughter, Claudia (Blu Yoshimi), was unable to contact him, and thus he begins to suffer guilt at not being there for her. The emotional turmoil leads him to give up his work in a successful film company in the midst of a difficult corporate merger. He instead elects to spend his days in the quietly and contemplatively in the park outside his daughter’s school.

Quiet Chaos often feels like a play, with the park as the stage and all the other characters wandering in & out. Direction by Antonello Grimaldi, a primarily television director unknown outside of Italy, is workmanlike and dependable; the acting hits all the right notes, though nobody has to stretch very much. It is a pleasant film, one which never reaches to be anything other than middle of the road cinema.

In addition, having Pietro as a stationary object to which others must come makes every character interaction blatantly obvious; people seek him out for a specific purpose, there is no subtle unravelling of intentions. Occasionally the random will interject, such as the near-drowning incident & his wife’s death, but after such events the randomness settles down & once again the constructed trajectories of the characters take over.

This makes the film inevitable, and thus a little bit boring.

The script spreads itself too thin over multiple narrative strands and, as a result, fails to allow any interesting meaning or significance to be drawn out. The corporate merger is a distraction from the main father/daughter narrative; the return of the drowning woman leads inevitably to a sexual tryst without meaning to us or him (other than the star/writer/producer Nanni Moretti wanting to get his rocks off). Meanwhile, a beautiful young girl who walks her gargantuan dog in the park everyday eventually becomes a romantic hope for the future. It is too much chaos. But then again, this is what life is like sometimes: the merger is a distraction to Pietro as well as to the viewer; a one night stand can be meaningless but just what one needs sometimes; and there’s nothing wrong with a beautiful smile giving hope for the future.

The film is dominated by a quiet chaos, which makes it unstable not necessarily unlikable.

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