A woman wanders a grey Venice in this gut-wrenching film about loneliness and loss
Rodrigo Guerro’s Venezia is a sob-stifling study of grief and a twisted love story of sorrow and isolation, played out against the backdrop of a city famed for romance. It’s not easy watching, but the film’s sensitive illustration of loneliness is gut-wrenching and universal.
Sofia (Paula Lussi) wanders through the cramped cobbled streets of Venice alone. For her, love has left this place. A fog hangs over the city and her life. Director of photography Gustavo Tejeda’s cinematography is drained of colour; Sofia’s grief has rendered Venice grey.
Skulking in the shadows of crowded Venetian streets or sitting on a barren beach, Sofia is always achingly alone. The constrained aspect ratio emphasises her feelings of claustrophobia, trapped in a city of honeymoons with no one to love. We learn little about the protagonist’s life before her loss, though this is deliberate. The film captures how grief, immediately and without prejudice, can gobble up your identity; she is defined by loss.
Sofia’s lack of language adds to her isolation. The script darts between Italian, French, English and Spanish. Eschewing subtitles, Guerro leaves the audience as perplexed as the protagonist. Lussi has few lines, but the story hangs on her actions, not words. In one moving scene, her character reads the letter of a past lover, resulting in her face cracking into a long-awaited smile before mutating into shaking sobs. Lussi’s performance is heart-aching and sorrowful.
The film does little to challenge the historical stereotype of women in film as bereaved and tear-stained victims. However, flashes of female friendship, shared sorrow and solidarity offer Sofia brief relief from an icy loneliness that otherwise haunts the heroine. Venezia quietly guides the audience through a tale of bewilderment and bereavement. Don’t forget your tissues.
Venezia had its world premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival
Maeve Allen is a student at University College London and part of Edinburgh International Film Festival's Student Critics Programme. For more on EIFF's Student Critics Programme, click here
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