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An aesthetically beautiful and atmospheric film
on 7 March 2005
Emanuele Crialese's 2002 film Respiro, meaning "Breath", is a slow-paced, visually stunning film shot entirely on location in Lampedusa, a dust-blown island off the western coast of Sicily. Valeria Golino plays Grazia, a vivacious young mother of three who does not conform to the social constraints placed on her in a small fishing community, where the way of life has been ingrained and unchanged for centuries. Here, husbands go to sea and wives work packing fish while their children play amongst the cliffs. Grazia's unconventional and free-spirited attitude to life causes concern amongst her elders, and the community decides that she should go to Milan to seek medical attention.
Golino is the only professional in the cast, which is otherwise made up of local islanders. Usually confined to support roles in Hollywood, such as in Rain Man and Frida, she responds magnificently to having the lead, conveying Grazia's spontaneity and close relationship with her daughter and two sons with vibrance and subtlety. She is admirably supported by Vincenzo Amato, in real life a sculptor, as her fisherman husband, who brings a gentle strength to the role. Francesco Casisa, who plays her 14 year old son Pasquale, steals many of his scenes with a brooding combination of tenderness and brutality.
Winner of three awards at the Cannes Film Festival, Respiro draws great strength from Crialese's realist depiction of family and community life, but the final scene raises it to another plane with an almost mythical sequence. Crialese's use of symbolism is subtle and effective, with recurrent images of animals trapped by humans that perfectly mirror the social restraints put on Grazia's behaviour. There is some great cinematography, with the scenes shot underwater the most stunning of the film. Backed up by John Surman's mesmerizing saxophone score, it is an aesthetically beautiful and atmospheric film.