Monday, October 2, 2023

KIDNAPPED (2023) NYFF 2023

In 1858 Bologna, 6-year-old Edgardo Mortara was taken from his Jewish parents and sent off to be raised as a Catholic. It seems the family's maid secretly baptized him when he was "sick" and the church wanted to use the kidnapping as leverage to force his family to covert. Thus began a decades long battle that ended unhappily. 

Marco Bellocchio's latest film is an interesting mess. Telling an intriguing story it's done in such a manner as to give us no real characters and polemical style of telling that makes its 135 minute run time a tough slog. I wanted to walk because I didn't care about anyone on screen but I wanted to know how it came out.

Blame the script. Part of the problem is there are way too many characters on screen with too many locations and we are never focused on anyone.  We are never anywhere long enough to get a real sense of anyone except as literal one note characters. The father is a stoic man trying to do what he feels is right but being crushed, the mother glares, Edgardo fleetingly wants to go home but kind of likes where he is, the rest of the family never registers, almost all the church people are boo hiss villains, and anyone else just kind of is. There are no real people anywhere in this film (if this had been a documentary with recreations we would have gotten more character detail). Worse we are never given any sense of time and place, we are just given unconnected moments. Yes, we get  mentions of things like the international outrage but like most of what is said, its just words. What is happening to Edgardo's family while he isn't there? What exactly are they doing to get him back? I mean we know but only after they have done it  and someone is saying it's the wrong thing. And what of Edgardo? He just goes along until he's suddenly older and fully in the sway of the church. There is no character there just a brainwashed toadie.

And I won't even get into how the story was may have played apart the formation of modern Italy and the break with Vatican control- which is kind of in the film but fleetingly mentioned, but not explored. The actual story is incredibly complex and would need several more hours to explain. So while I applaud Bellocchio's decision to focus on the real people he made the mistake of forgetting to include them.

While the story is interesting there is nothing really there to explain why we are being told it and told this way, which is best described as trying to cover everyone and everything and managing not to do justice to any of it. I could have told the same story in seven or eight better ways that actually moved the audience. (though some in the audience I saw this reacted to something bad happening to the pope in a manner one would expect at a boo hiss pantomime show, which resulted in a bigger reaction from the rest of the audience.)

This should have been a documentary miniseries.

Unless you are a Bellocchio completeist you can skip this.

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