Imagine you take a quick shot of some really hard drink and after a few moments experience a somewhat sudden kick that will make you experience a momentary aloofness from the rest of the world. That is exactly the kind of mood the film-makers try to capture with this Italian gem. Think 'calm', 'sedate', or even 'bovine'......that is the kind of feeling that will automatically engulf you as the film opens with its loooooooong tracking shot of a man carrying a suitcase on a ground escalator conveyor belt in an empty corridor of some place throughout the title credits. He reaches the end of this belt and quickly walks away as the credits end.
The mood set by the opening sequence reflects the mood of our central character, Titta Di Girolamo (Toni Servillo), an equally calm, restrained and (apparently) indifferent, lonesome individual who talks about the frivolity of the people around him but insists (through his voice-over narrative) that his existence is not frivolous even if it seems so. He has been staying at a plush hotel somewhere in Switzerland for at least the last (gasp!) 8 years! He pays his lodging and boarding regularly and punctually, spends most of his time in the coffee shop/bar downstairs, observing the people around him but pretending to be oblivious. There's a beautiful girl by the name of Sofia (Olivia Magnani) working at the bar. He seems to fancy her but pretends he doesn't. He even refuses to acknowledge her existence, even as she greets him without fail all of the last couple of years she has been working there.
Once a week he delivers a big suitcase somewhere in his car. On other occasions he whiles away his time playing Grabber with an elderly couple, a pair of has-beens who are now forced to stay in a room in the hotel they used to own!
All these characters are introduced to us and we keep wondering ...what ? Why? as the camera pans and scans and tracks the hotel corridors, the coffee shop, the streets at a sluggish pace for most of the first half of the film. And as Titta sleepwalks as he moves in every scene, we wonder......what is this man up to really? Why is he there and what is his purpose? Why is he the cold snob he comes across as? All these questions are soon answered as the story proceeds and things start to happen almost suddenly and take you by surprise.
What struck me as unusual about this picture, among other things, is its editing and camerawork. I mean I've seen some films which focus on slow, concentrated camerawork and others that take the other extreme and resort to quick cuts. "The Consequences of Love", then stands out, because it employs both these techniques, with the long tracking shots being a dominant feature. Some of the scenes are even inventively shot and quite extraordinary, worth adding to lists of "Greatest film scenes of all time". Cinematographer Luca Bigazzi deserves applause for his work. Also commendable is the stupendous music of the film. The soundtrack is mostly composed of post-rock and electronica (Mogwai, Terranova, to name a couple of artistes) which has been used to a great effect in the film. The original score by Pasquale Catalano is also worth a million bucks.
As far as the performances are concerned, Toni Servillo deserves maximum praise for his splendidly restrained performance in the lead role. What an amazing display of super-coolness fused with a subtly expressive demeanor...one that is capable of putting some of the more popular acting brigade to shame. I wish there was more of the beautiful Olivia Magnani though.. (Where the hell was she all this while anyway!) She seems to have talent but gets very little scope in this. Adriano Giannini appears for a short while but doesn't have much to do, except throw some more light on the kind of person Titta is.
Paolo Sorrentino, the writer-director has talent. There is no question about it. He writes an unusual script laced with bittersweet sprinkles of humour, romance and tragedy. What's more, he directs with finesse and infuses the right kind of icy cool atmosphere that is essential for a story revolving around a perpetually chilled out character! Titta's character develops gradually and Sorrentino successfully manages to paint him gray, leaving us suspended as to whether to root for this guy or hate him for his cold attitude.
Check out also the slight nod to "The Godfather" that is evident in one of the scenes further in the film.
There are only a couple slight problems with the script in the manner in which some situations and actions seem forced in order to push the narrative to the culmination where we come face to face with the so-called "Consequences" that the title mentions.
Minor glitches notwithstanding, "The Consequences of Love" (Le Conseguenze Dell'Amore) is a fine offering from Italian Cinema that surely deserves a wider audience.