A Jane Campion-led jury awarded Alice Rohrwacher with Cannes’ Grand Prix back in May for this beautiful piece of magic realism about a young girl and her family in rural Tuscany. The film focuses on young Gelsomina: a 12-year-old girl coming to grips with life and helping out on the family farm. We see her relationship with her mother, her eldest sister and her hermetic father, who is determined to see her take over the lot. One day out swimming, the girls happen upon a Fellini-esque TV shoot with Monica Bellucci as its Dolce Vita. It’s an advert for an upcoming competition of local wonders and since Gelsomina has a particular knack for keeping bees, she decides to throw in.
Having grown up with a bee-keeping father herself, Rohrwacher has crafted not only a refreshingly personal film here, but one which feels steeped in authenticity. The clothes, colour palette and grainy 16mm photography perfectly capture the era but it is in the surrealist touches that the film soars. We feel the beauty of a beam of light, the weight of spilled honey and, most startlingly of all, the aching anxiety of growing up. Life-affirming stuff.
The Wonders | Directed by Alice Rohrwacher (Italy 2014) with Maria Alexandra Lungu, Alba Rohrwacher. Starts October 2
Originally published in issue #131, October 2014.