“The Consequences of Love” (2004)

The 2004 Italian feature The Consequences of Love screened Monday night as part of the Hamilton Film Society’s weekly programme of international and classic movies.  It was the third contemporary Italian film in a row for the Society, coming after the 2006 movies Mid-August Lunch and Red Like the Sky.  While all three offered their own charms and pleasures, The Consequences of Love perhaps shaded the others.  In premise, execution and imagery it lingers in the memory long after the haunting last frame.

 

There’s a temptation to label any film that features the Mafia a ‘gangster picture’, especially if it hails from Italy.  The Consequences of Love resists such pigeon-holing, even as the secrets of its enigmatic protagonist are revealed.  Titta di Girolamo is a shy and lonely man in his late 40s, long separated from his wife and largely estranged from his two children.  He lives a solitary existence in an expensive Swiss hotel, spending his days in the establishment’s bar, barely acknowledging either the other permanent residents or the staff.  His sole purpose in life is as a money launderer for the mob, depositing large sums of cash into their account on a monthly basis.  The only entertainment he allows himself is to play a low stakes card game with a down-on-their-luck married couple, a pair of ancient aristocrats, habitual gamblers and sometime cheats who once owned the hotel.

 

When Titta’s brother, a man whose energy and charisma contrasts markedly with that of his sibling, visits for a day,  the careful routine is disrupted.  The younger man acts as catalyst, causing latent tension between Titta and the hotel’s barmaid to come to the surface.  In the past Titta has pretended to ignore Sofia, afraid of the feelings the twentysomething woman stirs in him.  She in turn has been frustrated at his rudeness, yet also attracted by his mystery.

The relationship that develops between the two stops well short of the melodrama implied in the film’s title.  The Consequences of Love is no more a conventional, May-December romance than it is an out and out gangster movie.  It’s rather a melancholy character study and psychological thriller, building its tension slowly, avoiding the obvious in terms of both plot and structure and keeping the audience guessing until the very end.  The titular ‘love’ is a metaphor for any kind of emotional contact between individuals.  Titta’s decision to re-engage with life is self-consciously made and all the more moving for his certainty that it will bring about his downfall.

By definition the acting has to be low key.  Toni Servillo is subtle and effective as Titta, as much in voice-over narration as physical performance.  As Sofia Olivia Magnani proves herself an entirely more controlled actress than her grandmother, the legendary ham of Italian neo-realism, Anna Magnani. There’s also a showier supporting cast of ill-dressed Mafiaso to sustain appropriate verisimilitude.

Ultimately The Consequences of Love is a director’s film, not an actor’s.  Writer-director Paolo Sorrentino has drawn comparisons from some critics to the likes of Antonioni.  While that might overstate things, visually Sorrentino does prove himself capable of some breathtaking compositions and thematically he explores a similar sense of urban alienation.  The concluding coda - unexpected and unexpectedly powerful -  is an achievement that any director would be proud of.


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