Last night I watched I Fidanzati by Ermanno Olmi. I think I’ll need to amend my top ten favourite films list now.
I don’t think I can actually describe this film. I can say that it’s 77 minutes long, mostly devoid of dialogue except in short bursts, and beautifully, beautifully shot. You can see the neo-realist influence, but it’s not quite that either. It’s not Fellini’s carnivalesque, and neither is it Antonioni’s alientation. It’s different, and it’s beautiful.
The Criterion Collection’s description doesn’t go very far, but it might at least give you an idea of what it’s about:
Ermanno Olmi’s masterful feature is the tender story of two Milanese fiancés whose strained relationship is tested when the man accepts a new job in Sicily. With the separation come loneliness, nostalgia, and, perhaps, some new perspectives that might rejuvenate their love. Olmi’s deep humanism charges this moving depiction of ordinary men and women, and the pitfalls of the human heart.
I suppose what really impressed me with this film was the pacing and the use of flashbacks — imagined or otherwise. The narrative follows the man (whose name you never learn) as he adjusts to his new work in a petrochemical factory in Sicily. The days are hot, and the diversions minimal. On Sundays he wanders around the countryside, beacuse there’s really nothing else.
Over the course of his daily routine, you get brief looks into the past at his life in Milan. You see the strained relationship with his fiancé, and a supposed affair with another woman. In the film you never see the two reunited. You see their letters, and the conversations they imagined they’d had. You see their past, and their potential future. And as they get more and more used to being apart, they realize that all they want is what they had taken for granted for so long.
It’s a really, really good film. You should watch it.