Alexandre (Fabrizio Rongione) and Aliénor (Christelle Prot) have been married for a while and everything seems to be going fine, even if a little stale, maybe. Alexandre, an architect, decides that he wants to finally write the book on Borromini he’s had in his head forever and for that he has to travel to Switzerland, then Italy. Aliénor spontaneously decides to come with him. When they arrive in Borromini’s birth town, they run into the siblings Goffredo (Ludovico Succio) and Lavinia (Arianna Nastro). Aliénor is immediately intrigued and she convices Alexandre to take budding architect Goffredo on his trip to Italy, while she will stay with the sickly Lavinia. Through the eyes of the young siblings, they themselves start to rediscover their own joy.
La sapienza is a film that talks about emotions, but only from a rational perspective. While that starts off interesting, it ends up being a little too stiff and distant, giving the film not inconsiderable lengths. But it’s still interesting enough.
At the beginning of the film, Alexandre and Aliénor are all amicable distance, which is underscored by the way Green directed all the actors in the film, but particularly Prot and Rongione: they mostly stand or sit side by side, their looks in parallel directions, instead of looking at each other, talking in long, rather monotone, but very knowledgeable monologues. As a build-up of the awkward distance between the two of them, this works perfectly, but it also works perfectly at keeping the audience at a distance. Even towards the end, when, supposedly, they both find their joyfulness again, this style doesn’t change (much) and that really hurts the message of the film.
But even before that this distance hurts the film because you never much care for the characters, the emotional involvment is missing. And that means that film quickly starts to drag, even though it isn’t actually that long. It might be different for people who are currently in a re-orientation situation, maybe they will feel more with the four protagonists, but for me they all remained aloof.
Though that can also be because the film not only has Wisdom in the title, it obviously wants to be very wise as well – and ever since I got over my Paulo Coelho phase (ca. 2001-2003), I grew very suspicious about everything that tries to sell me wisdom.
But every once in a while the movie had brilliant moments, some even very funny, that almost seemed to be visiting from another movie and those are the moments where the film really shines, and where the joy it is searching so hard, is actually captured for a second. It is worth it to see the film for that.