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Film Review: Il Grande Spirito

A poignant comedy would be one way to describe this film by Sergio Rubini except that it's not trying very hard to be comedic and very little is actually played for laughs. It's an offbeat and original movie about a small time thief who becomes entangled with a very peculiar character who is quietly living his solitary life on the rooftops of Taranto (in Puglia) according to the ethos of a Sioux indian. So, yes, the peculiar character in the story is not quite playing with a full deck, something along the lines of Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man perhaps.


Il Grande Spirito film poster

A co-dependency develops by force of circumstances and the film explores the impact of this on the protagonist, but thankfully Sergio Rubini largely avoids the predictable Hollywoodesque march towards redemption and salvation. The thief remains a thief, changed perhaps but definitely not on his way to sainthood.

The metaphor looming large in the film which will be lost on international audiences lies in the backdrop of Taranto where one of the largest steelworks in Europe dominates and pollutes life, immeasurably damaging one of the most historic towns of Ancient Greece situated on the beautiful coastline of the Ionian sea.

Sergio Rubini, a well respected Italian actor over the last 35 years, plays the lead part as well as directing the film. He is from Puglia himself and, though he chose Taranto deliberately, the town stays firmly in the background and there are no attempts to clumsily drive home an environmentalist message at the story's expense. Every country has their own Taranto however and this may be a more intelligent way of bringing attention to the problem.

Almost all of the footage takes place on the rooftops of Taranto and it moves along at a good pace without descending into sentimentality. I really enjoyed the film but not everyone will. However, this is an ideal film for anybody who wishes to expand their vocabulary of rude and insulting Italian words that can't be found in the dictionary.