Jacek Borcuch’s drama, Dolce Fine Giornata, which opens in Toronto on October 11, oscillates between the sylvan splendor of Tuscany and the hard world beyond its soft, rolling green hills.
Maria Linde (Krystyna Janda), a Nobel Prize laureate of Polish Jewish descent, lives in a rustic farmhouse with her Italian husband (Antonio Catania), her single daughter Anna (Kasia Smutniak) and her two grandchildren.
It’s a cushy existence and Maria, a poet of renown, is enjoying it immensely.
In the first moments of the film, she buys a freshly-caught fish from a garrulous fisherman, turns down an interview with Le Monde because she has nothing further to say, hosts a house party, plays with her grandchildren, and meets Nazeer (Lorenzzo de Moor), her much younger Egyptian lover.
These scenes unfold in Italian, Polish and French against the backdrop of a refugee crisis in Europe. Refugees from the Middle East are pouring into Italy and the European continent, causing an assortment of reactions.
When Anna suddenly asks Maria about her affair with Nazeer, the proprietor of a waterfront tavern, she seems nonplussed. “I like him,” she says nonchalantly. He’s intelligent, hardworking and handsome, she explains.
To paraphrase Frank Sinatra’s signature song, It Was A Very Good Year, Maria is in “the autumn of her years” and feels she’s entitled to one last romantic fling. “I have a little crush on him,” she admits under questioning by her husband, with whom she seems to have no chemistry.
Dressed in elegant clothes and usually wearing stylish sunglasses, Maria drives around town in a snazzy white sports car, as if to boldly proclaim that life has not passed her by.
Visiting Nazeer, she accepts a singular gift from him, a leather-bound book by the Arab poet Omar Khayyam. It’s the most intimate scene between the pair, but it’s platonic rather than romantic.
In the wake of a suicide bombing in Rome which claims dozens of victims, Maria delivers what turns out to be a provocative a speech. In her introductory remarks, she discloses she was born in Warsaw in 1955, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, and left Poland after the imposition of martial law in the early 1980s. As she proceeds, she makes a few highly inflammatory comments that land her in hot water.
“She’s fucked in the head,” says Anna in consternation.
The notoriety that envelops Maria affects her judgement. After she runs three red lights, a policeman gives chase and orders her to stop, but she recklessly ignores his command.
Amid this roller-coaster ride of gut-wrenching emotions, Maria bumps up against the rising tide of xenophobia and racism in Italy. This occurs when one of her Sicilian Italian acquaintances tells her that his son was beaten after being mistaken for a Moroccan Arab.
The film, ably directed by Borcuch, moves along at a brisk pace and succeeds in drawing a plausible portrait of a strong, successful, confident woman who tilts at windmills. Janda, an eminent Polish actress, delivers a subtle performance. The rest of the cast is no less impressive.
Dolce Fine Giornata certainly leaves an impression.