For everyone, Paolo Sorrentino is the acclaimed custodian of The Great Beauty of Rome and, by extension, of Italy, as he will be for many years to come.Print itinerary
The film, winner of the 2014 Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language film, gave him the keys to the city, like those which one of his night creatures, Stefano, friend to princesses and ‘guardian’ of the most beautiful of palaces, from Palazzo Nuovo to Palazzo Barberini and Palazzo Spada, Villa del Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta and Villa Medici, mysteriously keeps in his briefcase.
These are just some of the doors that open to the heavy-lidded gaze of Jep Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo, a cynical guide in the midst of this enchantment. He is not wrong, Rome should be experienced with a dawn stroll down a sleepy Lungotevere, held within the confines of a perfect thought when searching out the dome of St Peters through a keyhole on the Aventine Hill, or encapsulated in a sharp aphorism while walking away from the fountains of Piazza Navona. So, armed with a soundtrack, the a cappella choir of David Lang’s I Lie for example, let’s look in the direction Sorrentino indicates. And there, Rome is revealed, as we fall from terraces with views of the Colosseum, in the morning oration of nuns’ flapping white habits, the glacial and perfect profiles of the statues in the Capitoline Museums, the oval of Raphael’s mysterious Fornarina, the victorious sword of Archangel Michael crowning Castel Sant’Angelo, the illuminated sky flight of the flocks of birds and in the wonder of the saints.
Even if Sorrentino has occasionally taken his ability to stretch a frame to the limits of its height and borders, infiltrating the space left free by reality, abroad to America (This Must Be the Place) or Switzerland (Youth) – his tracks can also be followed in his native Naples. Naples can hardly be seen in his first film One Man Up whose main characters, pushed to the edge of failure, fail to notice it. The city appears once again, accidentally in Le Conseguenze dell’Amore and dramatically in Il Divo (which also includes the sumptuous palaces of Turin and Rome).
The director returns home for his most personal story yet, The Hand of God, a film that tells his own experience through his alter ego Fabietto Schisa, a seventeen-year-old looking for his path through the events that overwhelm him in the tumultuous Naples of the 1980s, and a title that evokes that fateful goal from the hand of his idol Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup semi-final between Argentina and England. From piazza del Plebiscito, busy with vintage cars, to the lungomare shoreline and galleria Umberto I, this time the most iconic places in the city appear almost as if revealing a story of their own behind the camera.
Interiors predominate in the search for a spirit as primordial, ugly and mean as that of The Family Friend, shot between Latina and Sabaudia. Then it’s back to Rome where the music is Nada’s Senza un perché (every frame crafted by the Neapolitan director is also encapsulated on a sheet of music). This accompanies us in his latest work, The Young Pope TV series, a fearsomely challenging yet successful attempt to imagine a young man as pope. There is no Jep here, or perhaps he is hiding beneath the immaculate robes of the handsome Pope Lenny (Jude Law) who, like his progenitor, likes to roam. This time around, Rome is an ingenious composition: the interiors of St. Peter were recreated in the Church of St. Luke and St. Martina, the papal apartments at Palazzo Braschi, the Vatican Gardens the synthesis of many locations. Much was built, such as the Sistine Chapel and the facade of St. Peters. Sorrentino’s films are, after all, a stunning firework display.