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SYN Nation

Italian Film Festival – Film Review: Those Happy Years

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Italy, 2013

Rating: M18+

Director: Daniele Luchetti 

Daniele Luchetti takes us back to the scene of 1970s Europe, a period of mixed media, the contemporary avant-garde screaming for recognition and the feminist movement likewise. Building from this historical backdrop of pre-existing tensions, Luchetti invites viewers to be taken on a heightened dramatic journey of self-discovery curiously exploring the idea of true freedom verse being enslaved by desires. This dilemma is depicted with raw honesty in the personal lives of passionate narcissistic artist Guido (Kim Rossi Stuart) sculpting female bodies much to his sensitive wife Serena’s (Micaela Ramazzotti) dismay, and the resultant impact it has on their children Dario (Samuel Garofalo) and Paolo (Nicolo Calvagna).

Interestingly, the film opens with the focus on young Dario, walking up the steps of an Italian pier, with his parents in the foreground as his adult self narrates the scene. Instantly, we are drawn into this character’s insights and follow him on the journey of trust and mistrust between his parents and the fragility of his father’s ego. Luchetti’s clever direction of camera and excellent cast leads you quickly into the minds of the characters, and just as you are lost in all the drama forgetting it was initially from Dario’s viewpoint, he receives a video camera as a gift from his grandma. Dario then captures the unfolding events of a family holiday to France insisted by fed-up Serena – a family holiday without Guido.

This bold move is pivotal and reality dawns on all the characters except young naïve Paulo that divorce is in the not-so-distant-future. The twists in character motivations and values filmed through dark colour palettes are juxtaposed with Dario’s footage of the events through bright cheerful hues of childhood innocence. At one point it is delightfully displayed as literally a film within the film, which ironically captures Dario’s creativity and artist talent compared to the recent failings of his father’s exhibit.

Those Happy Years is definitely for someone who can sit still, embrace heavy silences and is of a curious mind. If you want your average action blockbuster, this is not your piece of cake. The title sums it all up, that despite the severity, drama and devastation of damaged family ties through promiscuity, pride and nervous breakdowns, in reflection those years were truly genuine, memorable and tinged with flickers of happiness.  

Written By: Sandra Lee, September 2014

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