by Sarah Cook
Grief can do strange things to a person. Whilst the hurt and anguish consume you, there is often an absurd nature to it as well. A giggle at a funeral, a family secret kept hidden, or a
Paolo Sorrentino’s almost autobiographical work The Hand of God looks at humanity in its purest form – through woe and wit in equal measure.
Academy Award-winning Sorrentino (director of Ill Divo and The Great Beauty) tells the story of teenager Fabietto Schisa during 1980s Naples. The story revolves around Fabietto’s fruitful family and Fabitteo’s football fanaticism. However, when a tragedy strikes, the frays of Fabietto’s world start to come undone as he tries to navigate grief and growing up.
Filming on the coast of Naples, The Hand of God is extremely beautiful. Capturing the sun-soaked city as the sea laps upon the shore and the volcano bursts in the background, Sorrentino’s lavish work is a beautiful film to watch.
Sorrentino’s personal work is, at times, triumphant in its study of humans and their little quirks. Whether it is his parents lovingly whistling to one another, a family spying on an aunts new lover, or pranks played whole-heartedly, Sorrentino examines the intricate love and adoration families have with one another as well as their differentiating personalities. The film also boast terrific performances by Filippo Scoti, Luisa Ranieri, and Sorrentino favourite Toni Servillo.
However, The Hand of God doesn’t really sit with its grief. Though the film is long, the emotions are fleeting. The story flits through these emotional vignettes and bizarre situations without pausing for thought. Instead, this collection of surreal, almost cartoon-like, characters, share either maudlin moments or moments of madness. They never really tie together. For example, one family member is set upon by a fractious few during the infamous titular Maradona football match and yet there are no ramifications. Aunt Patrizia, who opens the film and of whom Fabietto is fond, never really gets her resolution – leaving her character either a sexual object or a madwoman in a hospital (though played perfectly by Ranieri).
Perhaps that is the point, that the immortal hand of god shuffles us through life without pause and that, in great times of sadness comes the silliness of this futile life. That these snapshots of Fabietto’s pain, as well as pleasure, are ephemeral and temporary. There are no resolutions here because sometimes life has none to offer.
As true as that is, there are often times in one’s life that the weirdness of this unknown world begs for rest and mediation. The Hand of God gives little and therefore loses its meaning in the, albeit beautiful, fray.
The Hand of God lands on Netflix on the 15th December