The Hand of God (2021) Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
It’s a film of inescapable and tantalizing gorgeousness, it’s almost inevitable not to feel overwhelmingly convinced by its sheer beauty in constant wide-angles that invite you to relate to the peculiarities of the Italian family. And for similarly obvious reasons it’s impossible not to get absorbed by Paolo Sorrentino’s nostalgic remembrances of his hometown, yet his dramatic conclusions are largely unconnected to the gregarious humor with which the plot is set, and consequently much of his steady, extroverted visual communication is somewhat specious.
We have a coming-of-age narrative with an individual personality with non-transferable emotional responses based on a singular perspective, which is not necessarily a flaw as such, but unconsciously deconstructs the very rich expression we naturally connect with in the first act. Possibly, it’s a quirk of mine, and if it is, then we have in front of us a film entirely capable of shaking you with pleasant calm, powerfully contradictory yet it is certainly a magnificent detail, mainly because of the intimate journey we share with the main character in some of its most elegiac moments.
The Hand of God tells the story of a young boy’s anguish and liberation in Naples, Italy. It is the 1980s and 17-year-old Fabietto Schisa would be nothing more than an innocent Italian teenager trying to find his place if it weren’t for an incredible family that loves life and enjoys getting into mischief and meddling in each other’s complicated relationships. But a couple of events will alter everything. On the one hand, the triumphant arrival in Naples of a divine sports legend: Maradona, the successful soccer idol who fascinates both Fabietto and the whole troubled city and makes them feel a pride that seemed impossible before. And also, a harrowing accident that will destroy Fabietto’s life and mark his future. Seemingly saved by Maradona, touched by chance or by the “hand of God,” Fabietto struggles with the nature of fate, the confusion of loss and the intoxicating freedom of being alive. Within the tragedy, one of the most necessary ingredients for any artist is sought: “to find his own voice and what he has to tell.” Fascinatingly meditating with direct force an introspective process in which fiercely consolidates a person with much to manifest.
Still, as precisely written as the script is, this is the kind of film that relies heavily on its performances, which are sublime from start to finish, yet always remain on a very flat surface in contrast to the delicate and profound themes that Sorrentino exposes with passion and somewhat self-centeredness. Filippo Scotti with his imposing acting control successfully manages to bring a poetic passion to the character’s emotional crumbling with unmitigated authenticity in a way that is progressively evident.
The Hand of God conveys the fanaticism for football nostalgically as well as metaphorically, showing a similarity with the same emotional journey of the plot; in the beginning the arrival of Maradona is the most substantially exciting, then it is nothing more than an inconsequential and superficial detail symbolizing the metamorphosis of an artist finding himself in the most depressive passages of life. The Hand of God has an excellent variety of fervent landscape cinematography and is certainly one of Sorrentino’s most personal works, far from his auteur poses.