Marina (Stijn Coninx, 2013)
My pick of the Italian Film Festival was Marina, a biopic about a young Italian man who endures (moderate) hardship and racism to finally become what surely every young boy dreams of becoming… A FAMOUS ACCORDION PLAYER! If that doesn’t impress the girls, I don’t know what will. It wasn’t your average biopic in that sense, but it was a successful one.
Rocco Granata (played by Cristiaan Campagna, and then Matteo Simoni), son of a coal miner, immigrated to Belgium from Calabria, Italy with his family at aged ten. This is the first dark moment in his life, because Italy has PIZZA AND GELATI! Say it isn’t so, Papa. He begins to play his father’s old accordion shortly after, and so begins a lifelong passion for the instrument. His father (Luigi Lo Cascio) is not supportive; he wants Rocco to aim for more realistic goals, so that he too can provide for a family the way that he has. Meanwhile, Rocco is besotted with a girl (Evelien Bosmans) whose name we don’t find out until about two thirds of the way through the film (and no, it isn’t Marina). However, he is but a poor immigrant, and, along with the rest of his family, endures racism from many of the locals, including the girl’s father. But we know that eventually, he is going to become a sexypants accordion-playing STAR!
The movie poster might suggest that Marina is a light-hearted romp, but it is full of darker moments. One in particular makes me wonder why on earth they used this poster, actually. The tone is somewhat uneven because there are many cute/sweet/funny scenes, and then shit things keep happening that are really depressing. One thing that annoyed me was that a rich, pretentious, wanker character never gets his comeuppance – those are always my favourite scenes! But I suppose it’s a true story and in reality, those bastards unfortunately often get away with way too much. I was surprised by all the racism that Rocco’s family endured – almost treated like criminals because they weren’t native to Belgium. I think the Belgians (or can we call them Flems for funsies?) were just jealous because they didn’t invent pizza first.
Matteo Simoni was adorable as Rocco. Apparently it’s obvious that he isn’t actually playing the accordion, though I’m not sure how many people would pick up on that. A Flemish actor, he reportedly learnt Italian for the role, so that’s still a fair effort. Cristiaan Campagna as the younger Rocco was also gorgeous and it was almost a shame when Rocco was suddenly all grown up – until I realised that Simoni was a cute patoot. Evelien Bosmans’ face irritated the shit out of me, but I think that might be because she reminded me of a pain in the arse I once knew. I didn’t find her character particularly likeable either. Luigi Lo Cascio – who I could have sworn I’d seen in something before, but I think maybe I was just confusing him with Adrien Brody? – was the unofficial star of the film. I went between hating and feeling for his character. Unsupportive parents are the worst. But what confused me was Rocco’s dedication at the end to his father whom he says was his inspiration. This is the same guy who threw your accordion into the rain because he thought you should get a real job – whatchu talkin’ ‘bout?
The music was enjoyable, and the title number is extremely catchy. Aesthetically, Marina is beautiful to watch, though I found the blood red title against a black background a bit odd – this isn’t a horror film. I generally find that biopics get a bit boring towards the end – we tend to see the subjects rise and then fall (with occasionally a brief resurgence) but Marina focuses primarily on the early years, ending with Rocco’s emergence as a star. And that’s the right place to end it.
Marina is currently playing at the Italian Film Festival