Did I dream it? I hope not


We begin in winter, when Andrea, the town’s theatrical director, gathers his fellow residents to discuss their pressing concerns. For all, it’s Italy’s ongoing crisis, in which banks engage in speculation with amoral cynicism. Indeed, those two words – “speculation” and “cynicism” – predominate in all conversation, and so Andrea insists they become the centerpiece of the drama, which will be about “the end of the world.” Since most of the performers are elderly – the young have moved away or have other pastimes – Andrea could just as well be talking about his thespian pursuits, destined to collapse from apathy soon.

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The film profiles Andrea’s and his colleagues struggles to realize what may be their last performance, to take place in the summer. It is simultaneously a portrait of how traditions collide with modernity, and how the former rarely fares well in such collisions. Tuscany is the ultimate metaphor for such a clash of cultures, since its farmlands and farmhouses have long been purchased by foreigners and converted into vacation villas (as the movie makes clear). Montichiello, itself, picture-postcard jewel that it is, survives to this day on the money brought in by tourism. And so the film asks, what remains when the old ways have gone, and no new traditions have yet been established? It’s a profound inquiry into the state of the human animal, and Malmberg and Shellen are wise enough to refrain from answers, allowing their subjects to have the final word, such as it is. Next year, they may speak again, but in an ever-diminished voice.