Directed by Sergio Castellitto
Opens March 11 at Landmark Sunshine
“Why do women watch porn films till the end?” Answer: “Because they hope the guy will marry the girl.” That joke, taken from a snippet of dinner conversation in Don’t Move, says a lot about the relationship between Italia (played by an almost unrecognizably scruffy Penelope Cruz) and Timoteo (actor-director Castellitto), a relationship that’s at the heart of this love-me-hurt-me story (the kind of story that seems to abound in film these days).
As a director, Castellitto’s strength is his knack for pinpointing the emotional intensity of a moment. The film begins with a life-threatening accident, and as Timoteo’s daughter Angela is rushed into the operating room each part of his dream-like, frantic anxiety is rendered in heart wrenching detail: The rain above the wounded girl’s body doesn’t merely fall from the sky, it attacks the ground with a determined violence; then, as the mood changes, the drops land forlornly in the girl’s abandoned motorcycle helmet. Timoteo, a surgeon at the hospital where his daughter has been brought, sees a life flash before his eyes — the life he’d shared with peasant girl Italia.
Dissolve to a deserted road in the Italian countryside: A stalled Volvo on a scorchingly hot lazy afternoon. Timoteo walks, suit jacket scraping along the dusty road, a look of wounded surprise at the utter ambivalence he feels towards his outwardly perfect life: his job as a respected surgeon, his intelligent trophy wife, possessed of a bloodless beauty — all his luxurious middle-class trappings have left him trapped. Encountering broken phones and abandoned garages in the sleepy town, he accepts the invitation of a mousy local girl to use her phone. Then out of the blue, wedged between “excuse me” and “you’re welcome” he attacks her with a desperate, lurching sexual violence that’s startling… all the more so because it’s unfamiliar yet somehow utterly recognizable.
After this first violent encounter, we later see Timoteo standing on a beach as his oblivious wife walks past him into the sea, not noticing the message he has written on the sand — I RAPED A WOMAN. And so he leads a double life: gliding through the frigid chill that envelops his marriage, while obsessively putting his hand into the fire of infidelity, returning periodically to Italia.
The problem with the film isn’t the violent scenes — they often ring true — it’s the mawkishly sentimental ones, accompanied by some of the cheesiest Italo-pop songs. “Don’t move,” pleads Timoteo to the nurse attending to his daughter, and to Italia as she slips away from him, trying in vain to stop bad news in its tracks.
And Italia, abused, neglected, scavenging through the scrapheap of life represents the “other Italy.” In this context her rape stands for a larger and more systematic injustice: one which Castellitto has here attempted to expose in a sometimes, clumsy, sometimes beautiful way.