San Lorenzo natten
War is a
terrible thing, there are not two ways about it. For an adult it is often
difficult to comprehend. For a child, war is downright bizarre. “The Night of
the Shooting Stars” (“La Notte di San Lorenzo”) tells the story of a war seen through
the eyes of a six-year-old girl.
takes the form of a mother telling her child of a war taking place a long time
ago as she experienced it when she was a child herself. The war is the Second
World War in 1944 when the front was somewhere in Tuscany and the retreating
German army was wrecking as much destruction as they could get away with. In
the town of San Martino, the German have selected a number of houses for
demolition and told the inhabitants to seek shelter in the church. Some of the
townspeople decide to disobey the order and leave the town at night to find the
American. Those who go to the church gets blown up by the Germans.
(Micol Guidelli) is a six-year-old girl who has joined the exodus with her
mother (and the father, I think). We follow the group at large and meet a host
of people and what they are experiencing is both strange and traumatic. The fighting,
when it occurs, is barbaric and, in the eyes of Cecilia, often surrealist.
Friends meet, but being on different sides in the war they shoot each other
after their greetings. A bus drawn by horse are led by opera singing German
soldiers, a fascist who kills Cecilia’s grandfather is killed by Achilles spear
and so on. The Americans are never quite there, and disaster is always close if
not present. Yet, in this nightmare there are also small wonders, such as a
field of watermelons, American soldiers giving chocolate and balloon (?!) and
the elderly Concetta (Margarita Lozano) and Galvano (Omero Antonutti) find each
when they have lost everything else. It is a world that makes little sense on
any level, but especially for Cecilia.
angle of the movie makes it a strange war movie. It is surreal, scattered and illogical,
but in the way war is all that. It is full of people, real people, who talk (a
lot, this is Italy), have feelings, dear ones, flaws and then suddenly die. There
is no point to who dies and who lives, nothing is really fair, it just happens,
as in the strange shoot-out in the wheat field. As we see all this from the
little girl’s viewpoint, there is a certain innocence about it, as if people
are just playing at war with each other and not really dead, yet we also see it
as adults, the cruelty and tragedy of it.
of the Shooting Stars” is a beautiful movie to watch. The Tuscan landscape is sundrenched,
and all colors are sharp and crisp, especially the matching dresses of Cecilia
and her mother. Most of the people are smiling, sometimes even when they kill
each other, and the wonder of things are in every image. This may be a nightmare,
but it is also a great adventure at that eye-height.
As a viewer
those feelings are conveyed to me. I sit back with equal amount of horror and
wonder. A lot of it happens in glimpses, a lot makes little sense, not because
of surrealism, but because from the child perspective we perceive certain
highlights that the child see as important and so I often lack the context or
the knowledge of the relations between each character. The position of both being
a third person viewer and share the second person view of the girl is sometime
confusing, but it also juxtaposes elements that are wildly differently perceived
by the child and an adult.
really not for children, or for anybody, really, and what the movie seems to tell
us is that children need to create this alternate reality to cope with it. That
is both a wonder and a tragedy in its own right and while the movie does not go
all in depressive, it is easy to perceive that beneath the surface of wonder,
there is depth of mourning.
I am still
undecided if I truly liked “The Night of Shooting Stars”. I am still a bit
dizzy from watching it and trying to take it in, split, again, between wonder
and sorrow. Then again, its success at conveying those feelings very much
speaks for the movie.