The festival in Venice was invented to artificially extend the summer by a few days, when everyone already knows that autumn is just around the corner – the idea was to give the holiday guests a reason to stay a little longer on the Lido stay, at the beginning of the thirties. It will probably be because of the fact that there has always been a bit of apocalyptic mood over the festival to this day; Venice is a morbid setting anyway, and that for years the former magnificent building, the Hotel des Bains, with boarded-up windows on the Lungomare Marconi has been rotting away and recently the posters that line the promenade are often no longer advertising individual films, but rather those TV channels that they will soon be broadcasting in miniature format don’t make it any happier. However, the Venice Festival adopted the new formats and providers before anyone else.
This year, the major television event, which will be shown outside of the competition, is a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage” from 1973. The main actor and producer is Oscar Isaac, the remake was directed by Israeli director Hagai Levi. Hardly any other filmmaker has written so intensely for eternity as Ingmar Bergman, so it is commendable that Levi does not tackle the original too brutally. The modernization consists largely of the fact that Hagai Levi turned the story around: Now it is the woman who leaves her husband behind because of the relationship with a younger man. Mira, played by Jessica Chastain, will inherit from Erland Josephson, not Liv Ullmann. You shouldn’t mean that in the first scene – the two give an interview, as with Bergman. But because some things may always stay the same, it is Jonathan (Isaac) who explains to the psychology student how marriages work.
Jessica Chastain is an excellent actress, and she is doing her best here – in desperation when, while packing her suitcase, she realizes that she is leaving her child behind, in small twitches around her mouth that softly imply from the very beginning that the modern arrangement of this Before it might not make you happy at all. Jonathan works a lot from home for the university and takes care of their daughter, Mira often has to travel for her much better paid job. When she comes home, necessary renovations to the house are discussed, and you can always tell that she’s not saying something – that no more renovations are necessary because she just wants to get out of there anyway.
The only portrait that matters, says the Queen, is the one on the money
This is exceptionally well-made television – but it’s not particularly original because the whole thing already exists. Levi’s modernizations sometimes seem a bit forced, why the hell does he start the episodes with a look behind the scenes, as if he wants to date them with the Covid masks and remind viewers every time that they are only watching one TV series? As for the changes in content: Not all of them are particularly helpful in drawing Mira as a plausible figure. For example, one scene suggests that Mira, who is a big guy in a tech company, let her best friend convince her marital misfortune. Oh well.
The television character Mira fits the heroines in the competition. They are also in freedom struggle mode, the weekend films revolve around women who want to make their dreams come true. The Chilean Pablo Larrain, for example, speculates in “Spencer” about the inner workings of Princess Diana, Kristen Stewart gives it a wonderfully capricious shape, it creates an unobtrusive similarity: little imitation, but very sparingly distributed gestures that are recognized, the head tilted to the side approximately.
The film shows Diana on her last Christmas with the Royal Family in Sandringham. Right next to the castle is the house in which she grew up – and now she compares her life with her expectations and begins to provoke more and more over the course of the holidays. She doesn’t want to be there, she doesn’t want to have anything to do with this family and no longer submit to conventions – but the same military dedication is required of her that all other family members have. The only portrait that matters, Elizabeth tells her, is the one on the money. Even if you perceive Larrain’s Diana to be fictional, was Diana really as witty as he imagines her to be? – you love to watch Stewart bitch and refuse to take responsibility for anything but her children. Larrain’s film does not take her side unreservedly, it paints the portrait of a fragile woman who has expected a fairytale existence and is disappointed with reality.
Even with crazy women, motherhood is the safe part of their soul
Where everyone seems to agree, from Pedro Almodóvar with his opening film “Parallel Mothers” to Levi to Pablo Larrain with “Spencer”: Even with crazy women, motherhood is the safe part of their soul. Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal actually dared to doubt that in her directorial debut, also in the competition. She adapted Elena Ferrante’s “Woman in the Dark” for “The Lost Daughter” and focuses on a being alien to the cinema. Her heroine Leda (Olivia Colman) simply had other plans for her life than having children. She loved her daughters, but she got mad about them.
Leda is a professor, she comes to a Greek island to go on a working holiday all by herself, and at first it works quite well. She sits on her lounger in the shade and corrects work. But soon a large family spreads out in front of her and disturbs the idyll. The fact that one of the women (Dakota Johnson) has a young daughter triggers memories of what it was like when her own daughters were children and she also tried to advance her academic career.
And then this delicate and insecure woman does something very mean. She makes the little girl’s doll disappear. As if she wouldn’t allow this other woman to be carefree with her child. Hell is breaking loose now, and not only for the young mother, whose child doesn’t stop yelling for days. A disturbing film in which the idyll is repeatedly destroyed by human hands – the world could be wonderful if the people were made a little less complicated. Let’s see if the festival still has a few nasty women in store. For the diabolical look that Olivia Colman gave her Leda when she took the doll out of her handbag, she definitely deserved an actor’s award.