Happy as Lazzaro
For the sharecroppers of Inviolata, Italy’s secluded pastoral farming community, life is all but an easy feat, especially for the cherub-faced Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo), whose sweet-natured temperament and innocence strike gold with the tobacco farm’s magnate, Marchesa Alfonsina de Luna (Nicoletta Braschi), making him the focal point of all her exploitative deeds. Meanwhile, Alfonsina’s rebellious son, Tancredi (Luca Chikovani), befriends Lazzaro and uses the youngster as a pawn to forge his own escape from his mother’s overbearing grasp. What comes next sees the pair put their friendship to the test in a world where human values are compromised at the onset of capitalism.
A social commentary with a fantastical twist, Happy as Lazzaro is an enchanting fable that illustrates the two opposing states of the human soul: innocence and experience. The film commences with the naïve farmhands oblivious to the fact that they must be paid for the fruit of their labours only to see them steal from city locals later on when coming into contact with cash. Money has driven them to greed, and greed has fuelled their hunger for power; but not Lazzaro’s, for his innocence remains intact throughout the picture. Shown predominantly through a magical realist time warp, in his failure to physically age – much in contrast to his fellow workers whose youth fades with the passage of time – Lazzaro symbolises the goodness and authenticity of humanity before it has been tainted by corruption.
Alice Rohrwacher’s film is a visual masterpiece, and the director exposes its neorealist stance during the first half of the narrative, particularly through her establishment and aerial shots of the farmland in order to showcase its aridity and ochre colour tones – as well as its craters, reminiscent of a smoker’s lungs that have been chipped away at. Inviolata, too, has been chipped away, as have the precious souls that have served her grounds over the years.
Happy as Lazzaro is a timeless film with a heart-wrenching twist. It is auteur cinema at its finest.
Happy as Lazzaro is released in select cinemas on 5th April 2019.
Watch the trailer for Happy as Lazzaro here: