Paolo Sorrentino, an Italian film director whose first film as a screenwriter, The Dust of Naples, was released in 1998, became widely known to the general public only in 2013. In that year, he released The Great Beauty, a beautiful film shot in Rome that won him an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. Here is the list of the five most captivating of the director’s works.
This philosophical film that won Sorrentino his fame opens with a quote that in some way summarizes it: “To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength”. The Great Beauty could be defined as such: a journey into the inside of Rome lead by the main character played by Toni Servillo, an aging socialite, writer and journalist who walks along the streets of Rome looking at the lives of its people, young and old, rich and poor, and reflecting on his own life and past experiences. The movie became very famous for the amazing shots of Rome, masterfully arranged by Sorrentino. The film is also a reflection of the decadence of Rome and Italy, especially the decadence of the upper class, and for this reason it is often compared to Fellini’s iconic La dolce vita.
Sorrentino as a director is very interested in the past, both personal and that of a nation. In this shocking and very involving movie he reveals one of the recent dark periods of Italian history, with the figure of former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Andreotti, skilfully played by Servillo, was notorious for his alleged connection to the Mafia and has even undergone a court trial for it in 1995, as the various murders of his political opponents all began to unravel. In this masterful movie, Sorrentino reveals the mind of a corrupted politician through scenes of murder and long monologues. The soundtrack is fantastic too!
This is Sorrentino’s second English-language movie. It tells the story of a retired orchestra conductor played by Michael Caine. Caine’s character receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform in Prince Philip’s birthday, which leads to his reflection on music, his youth and life in general. It is interesting that Sorrentino, only 45 years old himself, nearly always chooses elderly men as his principal characters, as reflection on the past is a key element in most of his films. It is another beautiful film, most of the scenes of which were shot in Switzerland and the Alps in particular. Music plays an important part in all of Sorrentino’s movies, and this one is not an exception. His soundtracks are always well chosen to convey emotion along with the shots of stunning beauty, such as those of the snowy peaks of the Alps in Youth.
Another movie with Toni Servillo as the main character, The Consequences of Love is a psychological thriller which tells the story of a lonely and secretive businessman called Titta who develops a passion for a beautiful waitress called Sofia in the café where he goes every morning to solve puzzles in the paper, avoiding contact with people. As Titta and Sofia become involved, she discovers the reasons for his secrecy: that he once lost a huge sum of money and is now a puppet for the Mafia and a drug user.
This movie, which eventually also becomes a kind of a thriller, presents the ugly, misshapen 70-year-old tailor Geremia, who lives with his mother in a small town south of Rome. Geremia is a moneylender and an absolute antihero: cruel, stingy, hypocritical and despicable in all possible ways. He has an obsessive relationship with money, using it to insinuate himself into other people’s affairs, pretending to be “the family friend”. One day he is asked by a man to lend him money for the wedding of his daughter, whom Geremia promptly falls in love with and thus begins their “the beauty and the beast” affair. It is a film that is proudly grotesque, but also deals with the same issues of old age, lust and obsession that are central to the director’s works.