versione originale italiana

Cuore Sacro

Miracles are not enough
a review by Adriano Ercolani

translation by Patrizia Schiazza

  International English title: Sacred Heart, Italy, 2005
directed by Ferzan Ozpetek, starring Barbora Bobulova, Massimo Poggio, Lisa Gastoni, Andrea Di Stefano, Camille Dugay Comencini

I must say that I feel a deep sense of respect for Ferzan Ozpetek’s latest movie, although I regretfully admit it didn't really convinced me. In spite of its uncertainty and confusion, it’s a deeply courageous and strongly motivated work that tries hard to face issues like spirit's holiness, the reach for redemption, the tight relation with our own family, the thin gap between holiness and madness. The director tries to inject a deep and necessary sense of ambiguity in each element of the story, by showing immediately their counterparts. Doing so, he gives the audience no straight path to follow: there's only a sense of bewilderment, which could be well provocative. But this stylish storytelling, in the end, is too hard to follow, as well as story's symbolism.
Screenwriter/producer Gianni Romoli and Ozpetek wrote a screenplay full of interesting hints and sincere questions, without succeeding in putting them into a guiding line that could convey all the instances of the plot. Cuore sacro seems a contradictory movie and shows a lack of identity. High-contrast storytelling sometimes appears to overcome even the main actress, whose well faceted character is too passive about all the changes that take place around her. Irene (Barbora Bobulova) is undergone by personal traumas she just accepts, without turning them into action and decisions. Nevertheless her ambiguous fascination lies in this particular way of being: that becomes even clearer when the priest (played by Massimo Poggio) faces and shows her own weakness. The helping priest is the best-defined character of the movie, together with the arid and business-addicted character of aunt Eleonora (Lisa Gastoni). Speaking of reaching for a personal and spiritual balance, Ernesto Picciafoco, the main character in Marco Bellocchio's L’ora di religione (played by Sergio Castellitto), was dramatically stronger than Irene, although Ernesto's premises and feelings were opposite to Irene's.
Irene’s tension towards redemption - although we don’t understand from what, maybe from the animistic spirit of Irene’s mother - and her consequent and irrational devotion towards the others are shown with intelligence and true sense of participation. Ozpetek here and there seems willing to underline the need for a loyal and rational approach to the problem through the character of the parish priest, who is able to arise in Irene a more pragmatic idea of support to the needy.
The title of this review is a quote from one of Cuore sacro's most touching sentences - spoken by the priest: soon after this, the movie falls into a kind of Christological rhetoric which appears to be out of place, just like the scene of the salvation of the drifter Giancarlo (Andrea Di Stefano) operated by Irene, whose image is a clear and somewhat irritating reminder to the Renaissance Pietas. Cuore sacro also pays some explicit tributes to the horror genre, which seems a meaningless stylistic choice. One scene by the swimming pool clearly refers to Cat People by Jacques Tourneur (and to Paul Schrader's 1982 remake), and it makes us wonder, “What this film has to do with it?” The top is reached when we understand that the priest who is going to help Irene is called "Carras", just like Father Karras, the main character in William Friedkin's The Exorcist. What does it mean?
Finally, the movie's basic concept and the director’s sheer attempt to film it are Cuore Sacro's more significant achievements. Apart from the good technical quality - Patrizio Marone's valued editing and Andrea Guerra’s original score - the movie never finds his balance, in the attempt to please everyone, lacking the ability to convey the director’s inner beliefs. It is a shame: there really were the basics to make an inquiring and involving piece of work.