Thursday, August 16, 2007

Keys to the House

Because of my sister I am very sensitive to portrayals of handicapped people on film. No matter how good Daniel Day Lewis is in My Left Foot, or Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man or Sean Penn in I am Sam I still see the actor, not the character. Worse yet is when the disabled person in the film comes to some understanding at the end of the film, allowing us to leave the theater with a happy ending. My sister has never developed a new and better way to communicate just because we have been there for her. (The central premise of my film what's two+ three?- click on the link to the right if you are curious.) In some ways those other films are a bit offensive to me.

This brings me to this terrific little Italian film called Keys to the House. (So much nicer in Italian as Le Chiavi di Casa.) A man who has never seen his son takes him from Italy to a hospital in Berlin. The son, played by Andrea Rossi, has some mental and physical disability which is never fully explained, but is the reason for the entire journey. I haven't been able to learn much about Andre Rossi. According to imdb this is his only film. To me it seems as if he has cerebral palsy- he has a lazy eye, walks with a limp and has a withered arm. Now it certainly could be he is acting just like Day Lewis, et. al. but since he is not famous he became the character.

To me one of the best things about the film is that it doesn't try to explain everything. You don't (I didn't, but I am a dumb filmmaker) really know what his "problem" is or why the father is doing this, or what they are going to do at this hospital, or why they haven't ever seen each other. The film is simply about the relationship between father and son. I kept waiting for it to take a turn towards happy ending, but it didn't, though it is not at all sad. In fact the film ended sort of in the middle of things, leaving questions unanswered. It is by far the best film I have seen featuring a character with a disability and I encourage you to check it out.



mrliteral said...

I've always been amazed by Leo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, not just because it's one of my favorite movies, but his performance is so seamless that every time I watch him I feel like I'm looking at film of a kid I knew in high school. Yes, there are movie moments about learning and growing and happy endings, but you never see the wheels turning, and he's captured the personality so completely that you forget it isn't real.

PeterH said...

You are right about Leo in that film- he wasn't famous yet. Johnny Depp is no slouch either. But as I wrote, I am predisposed to not liking those films where an actor does a disability.


Anonymous said...

Hey Peter! Loved this blog. I found this out for you, from IMDb: "Andrea Rossi suffers from muscular dystrophy in real life", and "in order to win the confidence of the normally withdrawn Andrea Rossi, director Gianni Amelio began working with him almost 6 months before shooting started."


See you around,