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Marina, a woman who has trouble with getting used to be a mother, takes a holiday in a mountain lodge with his baby boy. She lives a tragic incident and his landlord Manfred gets involved in it. From then on, a strange relation between Marina and Manfred begins.Written by
Cristina Comincini's Quando la notte (When the Night) is best described as a romantic melodrama, and that's a genre that Italian cinema traditionally excels in. It's a bit like a romantic comedy, only without the comedy and with stronger, more violent, passionate contrasts in the love/hate angle. In the right hands, as in the films of Sergio Castellitto and Margaret Mazzantini (Don't Move, You Can't Save Yourself Alone), it can be explosive stuff. Cristina Comencini's film has plenty of suppressed passions waiting to be let loose, but it lacks the necessary conviction to carry it off.
Quando la notte at least finds the right kind of environment for secret and illicit passions. Marina (Claudia Pandalfi), a young mother with a 2 year old child, has gone on holiday leaving her husband at home, staying for a month in a remote lodge in the Italian Alps. It's apparent that it's more of a refuge than a lodge, and it gradually becomes clear that Marina is finding it difficult to cope looking after the baby on her own. She doesn't get much in the way of sympathy from Manfred (Filippo Timi), who is the owner and the only other guest at the lodge, a sullen solitary individual, a mountain guide who has recently been abandoned by his wife and children and is finding that this irritating 'family' is disturbing his gloomy isolation.
There seems to be little purpose to the film other than contriving a setting for these two to become involved in some romantic complications, but it's true at least that Quando la notte has made the chances of that happening something of a challenge. Marina and Manfred definitely don't see eye to eye, so it's going to need some major development to turn things around. Sure enough, Manfred manfully races to the rescue when Marina's son has an accident, but even then suspicion and resentment remain, Manfred having doubts about the nature of the boy's injuries. Further encounters and a trip into the mountains however lead to some kind of awkward understanding developing between them.
Awkward is unfortunately the operative word. Delving into his family history, the film attempts to account for Manfred's glowering disposition in a mistrust of women, mothers and families in general. It's not terribly subtle, relying on 'movie logic' rather than making any genuine observations about human nature and relationships, and the lack of conviction shows in the performances of the actors. Comencini's film does deliver on the explosive, violent passions, but the addition of an epilogue 15 years later only seems to confirm that the hollowness that lies at the heart of the film.
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