Medeas – Venice 70 Orizzonti
A new approach of the myth of Medea set in the rural countryside of the Southern California, by Andrea Pallaoro.
Andrea Pallaoro is an award-winning film and theater director born in Trento, Italy. At the age of 17 moved to California to study filmmaking. His latest short-length film Wunderkammer won six international awards and was selected in the official competition of over fifty film festivals around the world, including Sundance. Medeas is his first feature-length film and was shot in California. The film participates in Orizzonti section of the 70th Venice Film Festival.
Ennis (Brían F. O’Byrne) is a hard-working dairy farmer and lives with his family in a remote rural house in the Southern California. His wife Christina (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is deaf and goes through a difficult period in her life. She is slowly retreating into herself from the family living and she creates a space between herself, Ennis and their five children. She has already a lover, something that Ennis already suspects. Their children also feel distant from their parents and one from each other something that makes them behave quite differently. They are a family on the edge of breakdown but no one knows that yet.
Medeas is a film that doesn’t follow any of the traditional rules of storytelling. Pallaoro decided to strip out any structure of his story that he co-wrote with Orlando Tirado, and he based everything on the power of his image. The real story could also been absent since nothing is obvious and everything is just implied. The minimal aesthetics of the film and the fragmented presentation of the real drama are two factors that create even more distance between the heroes and the viewer also. That is the reason why Pallaoro decided to center his film towards the feelings. The minimal narration remains linear but the story is mainly based on the image and the sounds, not the words.
In reality Pallaoro creates a collection of this family’s pictures. He follows their everyday routine without focusing on any particular aspect. The film runs through portraits of each of the heroes as they slowly decay. These portraits could also be characterized as still since the movements and the action are extremely restricted to the necessary. As it is already stated, the dialogues are almost nonexistent and when they appear they are limited to some basic communication, even in sign language. Everyone has a role in this familiar silence. In order to add up that sense, the director uses extreme close-ups that probably try to create a higher tension and enhance overall friability of the emotions.
A great role to the final result plays of course the image that the director of photography Chayse Irvin creates. He decides to move lyrically in a perfect dried out landscape and transfers all the action under the vivid colors of the natural summertime sunlight. The choice of this deserted scenery comes as a great juxtaposition with the desertion inside the family. The heroes pray for a rain to come as a salvation and in the meantime they don’t realize the drought of their relationships. The father figure rots unconsciously while the mother becomes even more transparent and seems lost in the working fields. The children are the only true victims of this tragedy.
There is no doubt that slow-burning disjoined dramas like Medeas tend to appeal to a specific audience. Also during the last years we already had some helmers, like Carlos Reygadas, that followed that path. Andrea Pallaoro’s decision to work in that field of detached rural drama is of course quite challenging for a debut director. In the end though, Medeas doesn’t seem as well-balanced and controlled film. The picture overlaps the fragmented narration and sometimes augments unnecessarily the existing distance. Also the director’s intention to focus on the psychological aspect of his protagonists is not always obvious and sometimes the scenes don’t help the development of the story.
Medeas is an interesting drama that probably doesn’t break through any of the existing experimental rules. The detailed depiction and the precise choice of the scenery is certainly a positive fact to mention but the final result doesn’t exactly satisfy the initial high expectations. Andrea Pallaoro is a director to watch in the future and possibly the experience and the maturity in his work will better unlock his talent.