“The Wind, in the Evening” (“Il Vento, di Sera”)
A Murder, A Metaphor
French author B.M. Koltes’ quote, “All it takes is a gust of wind and we fly away,” introduces the story beginning with a montage of close-ups of enigmatic cell phone messages.
Paolo (Carlo Salani) is a 30-something guy waiting for his workaholic boyfriend Luca (Luca Levi) to get home from the office. But on this evening he never arrives. He’s been caught in the crossfire of a political assassination. The law prevents Paolo from getting any news from the doctors–he’s not officially family–and Luca’s mother (Marina Pitta) wants him out of the flat. So the night turns into an odyssey; Paolo feels that a tiny gust of wind has changed his life forever.
Director-co writer Andrea Adriatico uses long and shadowy takes that draw on the dark, emotional themes and make the film feel like it runs in real time. While dull and meandering, this is also enigmatic, elusive filmmaking–flooded with intense pain and frustration about the senselessness of it all. Paolo seems unable to come to terms with the overwhelming guilt and anger, everything everybody says to him seems wrong, his whole family is just gone.
Salani as Paolo is wonderful in the role, which barely requires him to speak. He simply wanders the streets, encountering a talkative cop (Sergio Romano), helpful neighbor (Francesca Mazza), barman (Paolo Porto) and young man (Fabio Valletta) who picks up Paolo on the street, takes him to a nightclub and then goes home with him. We easily identify with Paolo’s need for comfort and company, and with each of these people who reach out to him in their own imperfect way. All of them are so realistic–and so useless–that it’s astonishing to watch. We so want for one of them to do or say the right thing for Paolo—- we ache for him to open up to someone. Despite the achingly slow pace, this is a heartbreakingly beautiful and relevant film.
The film is just not sure how to express grief. Paolo literally wanders the cityscape after the death of his lover looking for understanding, and everyone he encounters tries to fit his experience into their own. The film is about the individuality of experience and this is sometimes a very lonely place.
Paolo’s early evening-to-dawn walk through the streets of Bologna assumes a quality of its own. Director Adriatico denies viewers information Paolo wouldn’t know — his being left in the dark about Luca’s condition by hospital doctors doubly effective, because Paolo, denied the right to be Luca’s spouse under Italian law, is not a relative. Only after he overhears a journalist does Paolo learn Luca was already dead when he arrived at the hospital.
Paolo further learns by catching a news report on a storefront TV that Marco, a cabinet undersecretary, was targeted by terrorists and it was a flying bullet that killed Luca. The news comes so quickly that it’s easily missed, and its importance tends to trivialize Paolo’s loss as he stumbles through the city streets, where silences are regularly broken by sirens. His situation worsens when after a bitter phone conversation with Luca’s mother (Marina Pitta), who orders him to vacate the apartment he and her son shared.
Francesca, meanwhile, takes on Paolo’s grief as if Luca were her own lover and does her own form of night crawling, but with far less emotional impact. A random encounter between Paolo and a lonely man named Momo (Fabio Valletta) leads to an unexpected set piece in a gay bar, where the film for a moment aims for a more explicitly political theme. Paolo, having read the headlines confirming the double killing, wanders into a park at dawn, alone and prayerful. We see the film as an expression of a contemporary, urban gay man looking for meaning amid chaos and in it is a universality.
Salani’s Paolo starts quietly and builds an intensity that reaches emotional flowering at the end. There is a graceful, atmospheric feel to this film that gets beneath our skin as it tells its story— an examination of grief and regret, about getting on with life, even though it feels just too fragile at times. Hopefully we will see it released in America on DVD.