Happy as Lazzaro
Panorama | Focus on Italy
Part fable, part realist drama, part social critique and wholly marvellous, Alice Rohrwacher’s follow-up to The Wonders (VIFF 14) is another enthralling work, one which hews to a path all its own while evoking the sensibilities of past masters like Ermanno Olmi and the Taviani brothers. The good and innocent Lazzaro (a simultaneously ethereal and down to earth Adriano Tardiolo) is part of a community of indentured sharecroppers on a tobacco estate in remote rural Italy, a place seemingly unchanged since the 19th century. Exploited by the marchioness (Nicoletta Braschi) who owns the property and hasn’t bothered to tell the community that indentured sharecropping has been illegal in Italy since the 1980s, the workers are basically slaves, and it is Lazzaro who serves as the butt of their frustrations. And he does so happily… Rohrwacher’s great achievement here—creating a world where time is in flux, modernity and tradition are at war, and miracles are possible—confirms her place at the forefront of European filmmaking while offering viewers a singular take on the state of Italy today.
"Lazzaro felice is something truly new… [The film] has genuine sweep and grandeur, and Rohrwacher’s most impressive feat here might be her ability to find just the right narrative and emotional distance for each section of the story, as it moves from rustic drama to picaresque journey to more pointed social allegory… Rohrwacher paints a portrait of a society where people’s understanding of right and wrong is forever changing, where being a truly good human is an impossibility not because the world is evil but because each person’s world is different."—Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice
Best Screenplay (ex-aequo) Cannes 18