ITALY IN A DAY Documentary, not rated, 75 minutes, in Italian with subtitles, 3 p.m. Thursday, June 2, Violet Crown,
No matter what country you live in, early each morning, loaves of bread get baked and newspapers are printed. These are some of the beginning images in a documentary made from videos recorded by ordinary Italians about their lives on Oct. 26, 2013. Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores fuses these disparate clips into an evocative film.
The film is structured to give us an hour-by-hour account of how ordinary (and extraordinary) people live out their day: What moments matter to us, vex us, or make us laugh? A mother gives birth to a child, and the father is overwhelmed almost to the point of tears; in the next clip, a man speaks with his aged mother, who no longer remembers the names of her four children or even the fact that they exist. The videos are edited with a thematic flow in mind, and music aids the transitions.
One moving section tells the story of an Italian doctor who provides medical services in countries including Iraq, where optimal facilities do not exist for sick children. The doctor tells us that after a seemingly hopeless operation for a boy born with a heart condition, the doctor and his aide did not give up. They massaged the boy’s heart manually for four hours until it began to beat on its own. Maybe it is such high-order heroics — or the everyday stoicism of bakers who work in predawn hours for the rest of us — that inspire one man, at the end of the film, to say that human beings are incredible. It is nice to hear something good about people for a change, in contrast to what the daily news cycle generally implies about them.
The only narrative here is that a day begins and a day ends. We share this fascinating time with more Italians than we might otherwise hope to know. When a film makes us think about life with a capital L, it can slip into sentimentality, but this documentary keeps its feet squarely on the ground. The filmmakers know which daily rhythms and aspirations we all share in common, and they play the right notes, and not too loudly. In other clips, a baby wakes up with a smile, and a couple has a mock fight before going to bed. It may not seem like much, but the whole here is happily greater than the sum of its parts. — Priyanka Kumar