Su Re (The King) – Torino 30
Giovanni Columbu directs this artful experimental depiction of Jesus of Nazareth’s last day on Earth set in Sardinia with amateur local cast.
The Italian fiction films that have participated in the Torino Film Festival have failed to impress. Some of them will probably have box office success but they are not films suited for a big film festival. The Italians also have the largest part of the official international competition with three films out of sixteen. Fortunately there is one exception, Giovanni Columbu’s sophomore feature film Su Re (The King). The director from Sardinia was preparing it for years; he shot it in nine weeks but it took him two years to finalize it. Nanni Moretti’s compeiny Sacher Films made the distribution possible.
The film tries to depict Jesus of Nazareth’s (Fiorenzo Mattu) last day on Earth. For that reason the story closely follows the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All the events from the Last Supper until the Resurrection are covered in a non-linear narrative. So there is nothing really new as this story has been already told many different times. The director tried to be as close as possible to the way the facts are written in the Gospels, so the story is quite fragmented and the narration is elliptical. This approach could make any other film almost unwatchable but based on the fact that everyone knows the events well, everything adds up easily. Each Apostle presents a different point of view so there is not an objective presentation. On a larger scale this is reminiscent of the narration of Kurosawa’s Rashomon.
Since the script is purely an adaptation, inevitably all the interest lies only in the format that Columbu chose in order to present this. The director shot the whole film in the mountainous region of his hometown Nuoro, which is situated on the island of Sardinia. He also chose non-professional actors and locals to perform all the roles. All the dialogue is in the local Sardinian dialect and that adds another element of authenticity to the film. Another novelty for this film is that Jesus is not presented following the already known stereotypes. He is not beautiful and he doesn’t have blue eyes and a great body, he’s quite the opposite. It is quite intriguing, especially for a role where the rules have already been set many times. This becomes even more interesting by the fact that Judas on the other hand has a closer appearance to Jesus so there has been an obvious and uncommon trade of roles.
The main advantage of Su Re is his experimental point of view. It follows the aesthetics of Taviani’s Cesare Deve Morire (Ceasar Must Die) and has the feeling of Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo by Pier Paolo Pasolini. There is no doubt that these films could be easily compared. Of course due to its theme the film has more similarities with Pasolini’s work. Although there is a main difference, Su Re is based mainly on the image, the harsh nature, the sharp people and the unknown language. On the other hand Pasolini preferred to use sacred phrases and his perspective was more refined. The cinematography is at least captivating and stands out. Columbu has worked with three DOPs, Massimo Foletti, Uliano Lucas and Francisco Della Chiesa, in order to capture the rough beauty of the mountains and shepherd-like folks.
From a purely cinematic point of view and without taking into consideration the religious interpretation, Su Re is an impressive film to watch. The innovative and alternative approach of the Gospels is another good reason to note that film. Columbu has remained faithful to the words of the book and this is another expression of his artistic formalism. He doesn’t try to impose his opinion and he is not dogmatic in his beliefs. Everyone is free to receive different messages or to just enjoy a detailed experimental work of art.