Gli Asteroidi (The Asteroids)Locarno Film Festival 2017
There’s a large hole in this film where wit, plot, jeopardy, excitement, emotional insight, character development and general intrigue should be. This is more the shame considering that it’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Marcello Dapporto and has a potentially satisfying literary premise, one that’s instead belligerently mishandled by director Germano Maccioni. As the asteroids rain down, there’s little use having characters quote Kant and Montale if they’re barely human to begin with.
Two teenagers, both alike in dignity, in a fair unidentified Italian province, where we lay our scene. The economy is no good. Pietro (a mesmerisingly bland Riccardo Frascari) and Ivan (a definitively Roman Nicolas Balotti) live in a state of perpetual antagonism with their parents, with school, with the world. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. The pair fall under the auspices of repellent business owner Ugo (Pippo Delbono), and they together form the “candelabra gang”, stealing from church while our hero Pietro distracts the local priest in confession. Sin that is hidden is half forgiven. Meanwhile, news of an imminent asteroid strike looms. Cosmic (Alessandro Tarabelloni), friend to Pietro and Ivan, is making enigmatic preparations for the pending catastrophe in a disused warehouse. It’s implied that he’s mentally ill, but not interrogated. We know he’s called Cosmic because every character constantly refers to him by name, as if to make sure we don’t miss the clever wordplay. When events collide, the group must try to see out the night, safe from the authorities and planetary destruction. One must therefore be a fox to recognise traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
The plot barely hangs together, with both main strands treated with callous disdain. We care nothing for the characters. Two potentially interesting additions – Pietro’s mother and Pietro’s love interest – are constructed out of cigarette paper. Neither utters a relevant word. Films should be ambitious, but this comes nowhere close to its grand thematic target, instead supplying pseudo-profound musings from the history of Italian letters to meet the intellectual shortfall. In the short story Chicxulub by T C Boyle, we fret over the fate of a man’s daughter while contemplating the impact of a large meteorite on Earth. It’s swooping and small, devastating and thoughtful. Presumably, The Asteroids hopes to replicate that aesthetic structure for similar effect, hurtling through the dark and the cold to remake our fate. But not tonight. Not for me.
Gli Asteroidi (The Asteroids) does not have a UK release date yet.