A man sits in a small hotel in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. He's lived there for eight years. He’s smartly dressed and most of the time he says nothing, content mainly to observe the other guests. This is Titta Di Girolami (Toni Servillo). Once a week he takes money to the bank, which is paid into an account made out to the Mafia. His is the almost perfect façade, until, prompted by barmaid Sofia, he begins to talk…
Paolo Sorrentino’s first feature, One Man Up, from 2001, wasn’t released here; I've not seen it. The Consequences of Love (Le consequenze dell'amore) is an incredibly stylish and confident follow-up. It’s a thriller, though a slow-burning one. In the first part of the film, as he introduces us to his central character’s world, just small touches – the camera held just a little too long on a detail – contribute to a powerful atmosphere of unease. A favourite device is to shoot a scene from the “wrong” side of a glass window. In an early scene, a funeral cortege passes by the hotel: Sorrentino cuts from inside to outside to back again, with the sound changing from muted to loud and occupying the surround speakers. Sorrentino’s use of screen space – using the wider Scope format to good effect – is also impressive. The scenes of action and violence are all the more effective for the long build-up.
Much of the effect of this film relies on the leading actor. Toni Servillo, on screen for most of the running time, provides a masterpiece of underplaying, building a compelling character by seemingly doing very little, a man with no friends and family, whose best friend (who features in an ironic final shot) he hasn’t seen in twenty years. It’s pretty much his film, acting-wise, but Olivia Magnani (daughter of Anna) is good as the barmaid who manages to penetrate his super-controlled exterior.
Artificial Eye’s DVD is encoded for Region 2 only. It has an anamorphic transfer in a ratio of 2.40:1. It’s a good transfer, with colours being solid and blacks true, but just a little on the soft side.
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1, and as I say above, the film makes fine use of the possibilities of multi-channel sound, with quite a lot of directional use, not to mention the techno-flavoured score. If you don’t have a 5.1 set-up there’s an analogue Dolby Surround alternative, which is naturally less impressive but is an acceptable alternative.. There are fifteen chapter stops and the English subtitles are optional.
A small selection of extras begins with the theatrical trailer, which is in 1.85:1 anamorphic and runs 1:58. Two short documentaries follow. “The Making of The Consequences of Love compiles clips from the film, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews (in black and white for some probably gimmicky reason) with Sorrentino and Servillo. Its running time (4:58) will indicate this doesn’t go very far. “The Man With the Bag” is much longer (15:30), with Sorrentino (again shot in black and white) and Servillo discussing the inspiration for the film and the main character. Please note that this featurette contains major spoilers – including an extensive look at filming the final scene – so don’t watch this until after seeing the main feature. Both featurettes are 4:3, with extracts from the film in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic with timecodes. Filmographies of Sorrentino, Servillo, Magnani and Adriano Giannini (who appears in a single sequence as Titta’s long-lost brother) round off the extras.
The Consequences of Love was one of the arthouse hits of 2005, so that and word of mouth will mean that many people will want to pick this book up. Artificial Eye’s DVD has good picture and sound, even if the extras are a little lightweight.