Michael McNeely is profoundly deaf and hears with the assistance of a cochlear implant, making him a cyborg who can get mighty impatient when dialogue-heavy movies lack subtitles. When not hitting up the cinema or his local video store, he is investigating (privately) how human beings interact with each other—and thinking about lesson planning. Yes, that’s Mr. McNeely to you!
Il Posto (1963)
Country of Origin: Italy
Language: Italian with optional English subtitles
Be warned: This film is on my top ten list. Even if said list can hold eleven movies on some days. Or five hundred. You get the idea. Also, to my future offspring: I’m sorry I named you after the main character of an obscure film that no one has ever heard of—hopefully you like him when you’re old enough to understand the subject matter (I’ll give you an outline when you’re two). And, I hope you’re never as scrawny looking as the guy himself!
Okay, let’s do the basics. In Italy, a genre of films was, for the most part, coming to a close. This was the Italian neorealism genre, which found its origins in the 1940s (especially with the devastation of the Second World War)—several names you may have heard of, such as Roberto Rosselini and Michelangelo Antonioni found prominence during this period. The Bicycle Thief (referenced in Amelie when a character talks about not liking movies where fathers are humiliated in front of their sons), directed by Vittoro de Sica, is a notable example (and a favourite as well).
Italian neorealists, including Ermanno Olmi, the director of this film, were concerned with portraying reality as much as possible, while still being entertaining so that improvement of social conditions was a possibility. To this end, realistic locations and non-professional actors were used—we are not in documentary territory, but we’re going to tell you a story that you should pay attention to because, we have this guy who doesn’t act but thought it was important to be in this movie! (Or…he needed the money, as my buddy who plays Domenico did—that scrawniness is not an act, he was probably very hungry and sick at times).
Sandro Panseri only did one movie and we’re looking at it. He worked at the same positions as Domenico does in the film, and a real office building is being used during the film. It’s almost like Inception where you’re trying to figure out what is real and what is not. Here’s a hint: Domenico’s love interest eventually married the director in real life. Boundaries be damned! Sometime we’ll check out the French New Wave for a steamy director/actress hook-up, cough, Goddard/Karina (which ended in 1967, but oh well).
Here’s the plot. Domenico gets a sweet job with a corporation that is promised to be his for a lifetime. We see him anxiously waiting to take the entry examinations, we see the kinds of tests the corporation administers, and we see his face when he has a job—we see him at training, we see him meet the girl of his dreams, and we see the sacrifices he will have to make for a lifetime of labour—necessitated because his family is poor and needs financial assistance. Domenico is easy to like because he wants to do what is right by his family.
The corporation isn’t an evil or sinister corporation ruled by an egomaniacal Josh Litman or anything that would be in a comic book. It is a corporation like any other, and it’s mostly a bad idea, as we see, to have a job for a lifetime. In other words, Domenico gets bored out of his mind (and the movie likes to play it dangerously close to boring us as well!). But that’s the point! It’s a slow film but it makes you think about how work can alienate us from ourselves – or in other words, make us so lifeless that we no longer enjoy the passionate and wonderful side of life that doesn’t have to do with delivering papers or fighting over cubicle space.
You have a case of the Mondays? Domenico has a case of not being able to see his love interest because they both have different lunch hours. It’s heart crushing to see his reaction when he discovers she’s found another man who has the same lunch as her. It happens everywhere across the world – how many times do we fall in and out of love just because someone is in our class or our workplace? Domenico needs The Adjustment Bureau on his side.
The most incredible part of this movie—and why it graced a top ten list of New Year’s movies I read at one point—is the New Year’s party the office throws—the one time, all year, that employees can let loose and have fun. Domenico comes out and a very nice older couple show him how to have fun—and he does! He’s a real mover and shaker at that point, and, at least for me, I felt that I knew Domenico very well. I saw all aspects of a full-fledged human being who experienced the pains and joys of starting to be a man. Seriously, what you see on screen is painfully raw at times – the awkwardness of the dates, the difficulty of pleasing people at work, and then we have the party—and the euphoria and joy that comes with it—which is worth seeing just for this scene alone.
The end of the movie comes quickly and the English title of the film, not a simple translation (which would be The Office, funnily enough)—The Sound of Trumpets—captures it perfectly. See, trumpets are to wake you up in the mornings…..so does Domenico ever wake up to the idea that the same job for a lifetime—the same thankless drudgery from birth to death—absolutely sucks? Well, I’ll ask him when he checks his Facebook during his lunch break and let you know… maybe we can see each other when he’s off and when I’m off, wait, someone has to pick up the groceries…pay the bills…crap. And yes, Patrick, another movie review is due next Wednesday!