Lo e Te opened in Berlin on November 21st.
When The Shining came to Europe, it had been cut by 30 minutes. Eliminating scenes from outside the Overlook Hotel placed Kubrick’s film more firmly to the genre of ‘closed space’ films whose efficacy, then and now, derives from a mixture of suspense (Rear Window, Twelve Angry Men), atmospherics (Solaris, Das Boot) and intense characterisation (127 Hours, Hard Candy).
These are films à huis clos, loosely named for Sartre’s play about individuals caught forever in the realisation that “hell is other people”; a modified red thread that runs through all of the above movies – especially if we accept memories and/or the subconscious as filmic companions. It’s certainly an integral aspect of the new addition to the genre coming this month to cinemas: Io e Te (Ich und Du) a work by mature European director Bernardo Bertolucci.
Bertolucci’s film is, unsurprisingly, more classic in approach. Fourteen-year-old Lorenzo (Antinori) is suffering from adolescence: spots, tantrums, inappropriate fantasies involving his mother. He’s supposed to be joining his class on a school skiing trip but keeps the money to buy boot camp supplies for a week of sequestered solitude in the basement. Discovered by his older, half-sister Olivia (Tea Falco), the two hunker down together whilst she goes cold turkey.
Following a decade of non-production, Bertolucci returns to the interpersonal focus of films such as The Sheltering Sky and even Last Tango. Much of his success here resides in the two lead performances and some deft camera work that comes at a small space from many different angles, encouraging the perception of the familiar as something new: an environment in which cohabitation thus develops and becomes not only possible, but desirable. Real desire, however, is missing. More could have been made of the sexual tension between Lorenzo and Olivia in a scene towards the movie’s end as they dance, tellingly, to the Italian “Ragazzo solo, ragazza sola” version of Bowie’s ”Space Oddity”. Having lit a fire, however, Bertolucci seems content to gently polish an – albeit honestly observed – old chestnut: puberty.
Io e Te | Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy 2012) with Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Tea Falco. Starts November 21.
Originally published in issue #121, November 2013.