Photos and Video
Using slow, meditative strokes of classic filmmaking, first-time director Paolo Franchi explores loneliness and the fear of emotional involvement in The Spectator. Ostensibly the portrait of a "stalker," this very delicate, understated piece of filmmaking deals with three characters' self-induced solitude. Valeria (Barbora Bobulova), a quiet young woman, becomes so obsessed with a man she barely knows that she gives up her own life, to live vicariously in his world. Even she doesn't know why. Valeria's life in Turin revolves around her work as an interpreter, evenings in a disco, one-night stands. She spies on a neighbor, Massimo (Andrea Renzi), who lives opposite her. When he suddenly moves to Rome, she impulsively drops everything to follow him. She insinuates her way into the life of the woman he's seeing, Flavia (Brigitte Catillon), an attractive widow and lawyer. When she is finally introduced to Massimo, he appears not to recognize her. Still, there is a feeling between them, which the film prefers to leave undefined and ambiguous. The three actors glide gracefully through difficult roles in which their feelings remain repressed and unspoken. Bobulova, who has worked with Italy's top directors, portrays Valeria as a sweet, confused girl. The French actress Catillon (dubbed into Italian by Licia Maglietta) is both alluring and distant, having erected an impenetrable wall around her emotions after the death of her husband. Perhaps the biggest loser is the shy, quiet man played by Renzi, who yearns to open up to someone but never finds "the right person."
Director's Statement Collapse
To watch the unfolding of a stranger's life. To follow it suddenly far from home, on an uncontrollable impulse. To stand beside it like a shadow and never touch it. Can this be love? Or a pathological expression of love? Perhaps it is no more than the inability to escape one's inner world, fear of confronting a reality which too often strains the imagination. A decidedly romantic sentiment, certainly, which seems part and parcel of Valeria's story, the onlooker. Massimo, too, in his own way, is a romantic character. An idealist. He leaves Turin for Rome, giving up economic advantages, with the sole support of his passion for scientific research and his own future. His future, as he sees it, has a name--Flavia. He believes in building a relationship with this woman and acts with the expectation of one who believes that he will ultimately reap what he has sown. To the point where even when he confronts the reality of Flavia's reluctance and indifference, his romantic dream is untouched. And if she can no longer be the object of his dream, it is still slowly nourished by the presence of a young woman, Valeria. It is a dream kept alive perhaps by strange circumstances which have subtly brought her into his life. Valeria becomes friends with Massimo's companion. They meet, they discuss, allowing the audience to discover the aspects they have in common. Valeria, alone. Flavia, incurably solitary. Valeria in love with a man who isn't there; Flavia, still attached to a man who is no longer there. The friendship that develops between the two women is fatally nourished by lies as well. Valeria must hide her true identity, her mysterious goal, that of remaining just an onlooker, a faithful shadow of Massimo and Flavia as her ideal couple. The story is studded with many casual events as the root connections interweave the affairs of the three solitary characters into a relationship basically false to reality. The first two scenes of the prologue open immediately onto a singular coincidence. A series of fleeting, casual meetings nevertheless leave a mark on Massimo's heart. In any case, the existential trappings of Valeria's life are so powerful as to strongly influence her choices, even the riskiest ones. Massimo's expectations surrounding his relationship with Flavia are as explicit as her resistance is to their being fulfilled. Thus the three main characters in the film become one with the story it tells. A story whose goal is to involve the audience in the outcome of this "absurd" yearning for love of Valeria's and its unforeseeable outcome. A story of emotions which, paradoxically, will bring them all back to their true and authentic solitary destinies. Massimo will discover that he is once more alone in a new city with his emotional life to rebuild from scratch. Flavia retires to her own home with the novel about her dead husband, which she will never, ever finish. And Valeria, the onlooker, runs away, taking with her, perhaps, an agonizing sentimental education.
Film Information Collapse
[SPECT] | 2004 | 98 | Narrative Feature
Foreign Title: (La Spettatrice)
About the Director(s)Collapse
Paolo Franchi shot his first short, Pages from a Personal Diary, at age 19. He was an assistant director to Nanni Loy, Francesco Maselli, and Peter Del Monte. He attended the film school at Bassano del Grappa, Ipotesi Cinema, under Ermanno Olmi. Later, he earned a degree in directing at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. In 1994, his short La Storia Che Segue (The Following Story) was selected to compete in the Venice Film Festival, and went on to screen in several other international film festivals including Clermont-Ferrand, Annecy, and Munich. In 1996 Franchi shot a mid-length film Frammenti di Sapienza (Scraps of Sapienza), which was also selected to compete in the Venice Film Festival, receiving numerous awards and prizes at other festivals worldwide. The Spectator is Franchi's first feature-length film.