Thursday 19 July 2012

On DVD: "Corpo Celeste"

Alice Rohrwacher's drama Corpo Celeste presents us with Catholicism as observed through the eyes of a young girl: 13-year-old Marta (an unforced, naturally inquisitive performance from Yle Vianello), the quiet one in a family who've recently relocated from Switzerland to rural Italy. Caught between her bossy older sis and a precocious, show-offy youngest, Marta is dispatched to confirmation lessons, although soon she's faced with bodily issues more pressing than her classmates' sniggering inquiries as to what might lurk under the Saviour's loincloth: what to wear, how she looks, where to get hold of tampons when you're out on the road. In truth, everyone here appears to be caught between the spirit and the flesh, time-honoured tradition and the temptations of modernity - none more so than the parish's self-serving priest (Salvatore Cantalupo), who wants a bigger congregation to preach to, and whose mobile keeps going off at inopportune moments; or, indeed, his devoted assistant Santa (Pasquelina Scuncia), who throws herself upon her master's unmade bed upon learning of his departure for pastures new.

It's quietly attentive, rather than especially damning or revelatory, but Rohrwacher proves unafraid of venturing into the community at large if it'll turn up something new, and any lingering solemnity attached to the subject matter is leavened by the nice laughs the film gets from those scenes concerning Santa's attempts to knock her slack and slouching charges into spiritual shape: the comic highpoint comes when everyone gets distracted by the stray cat that's somehow got into chapel. As somebody whose education in this field was mostly limited to C-of-E cakebakes and jumble sales, I found it a diverting peek behind the curtain of organised religion, and why it is some choose to turn away from the flock - though viewers may need prior knowledge of the catechism to pick up on all the film's subtleties.

Corpo Celeste is available on DVD from Monday.                                       

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