'Italy in a Day': Venice Review

Courtesy of Biennale di Venezia
Italian YouTubers get their split second in the spotlight

"Life in a Day" all'italiana

Director Kevin Macdonald’s YouTube-sourced film Life in a Day, which attempted to stitch together a portrait of life on planet Earth on July 24, 2010, gets an Italian remake in Italy in a Day, a film whose title already suggests how closely this new version is modeled on the original. Directed by Gabriele Salvatores, a 1991 foreign-language Oscar winner for Mediterraneo, this project is again executive produced by Ridley Scott and similarly edits together micro-moments in the lives of over 600 ordinary citizens, here all filmed on Oct. 26, 2013. A Venice world premiere, this should get a lot more attention in the boot-shaped country it depicts than elsewhere but is nonetheless interesting enough to travel to some other festivals and film week-type events.

The material for this 84-minute endeavor was culled from 632 videos that were themselves distilled from more than 2,200 hours of images submitted by over 40,000 people, as a panel explains at the start. As in Macdonald’s film, Italy in a Day’s basic structure is provided by the passing hours, from midnight to midnight on the following day. And with the chosen date here falling on a Saturday, a lot of partying is going on in the film’s first couple of minutes, as Italians celebrate the beginning of the weekend in high style.

The material then quickly segues to people asleep and early-morning workers such as bakers and farmers getting up before the crack of dawn, which then gives way to montage sequences in which people say “buongiorno,” get out of bed, wash themselves and brush their teeth. And again like its global example, the film’s heterogeneous score, mostly composed by the DeProducers collective, helps glue the various shots of people and places together.

The film’s initial message is clear: A lot of days in practically everyone’s life in the western world are similar and similarly unremarkable, though the effect of seeing all this on the big screen elevates it to a kind of glorious confirmation of the fact that at least in their mediocrity, no one seems to be alone (call it the banality of normality).

It takes a while for editors Massimo Fiocchi and Chiara Griziotti to braid in more outstanding figures or to have some fun with the material, such as when they cut from a chatty young woman, musing under her covers about what the day might hold and whether it’ll be one for the history books, to a shot of some unseen hand feeding hot dogs to the eager inhabitants of a chicken coop.

A couple of people stand out in the otherwise largely anonymous mass of Average Joes and Janes going about their daily business, including an Italian astronaut, who sees Earth from above and films himself preparing a space lasagna for lunch, and an Italian crewmember on a container ship who enters a storm on the Atlantic on his way to the U.S.

A couple of very welcome grumpy or at least more realistic people include a lonely pensioner who feels he’s worthless to society now; a jobless youngster who shows his biggest frustration: the “no new messages” sign in his email inbox, despite sending out tons of letters; a state witness who can’t leave his house since he reported some mafia figures for extortion; and a simple but very effectively cut sequence in which a couple of joyous childbirths are followed by a very sobering scene in which a very old lady can’t even remember the names of her four children, including the name of the middle-aged son who’s talking with her.

The film’s not overtly political, since much of the footage is simply too short to make much of a statement beyond, say, a wedding proposal. However, Salvatores makes an exception for a gay couple with a beautiful young daughter, who got married in Canada and who talk relatively at length about the fact that in the eyes of the Italian law, one of them simply doesn’t have any relationship with his own daughter.

Though there are many more similarities to what happens in other countries than differences, there is a general sense of Italy being a beautiful country, as shots of various cities and landscapes attest, and that it is also a nation that's at least somewhat in turmoil, as gleaned from snippets that suggest the aforementioned problems with unemployment and the mafia as well as brief scenes that show things such as protests against toxic waste. The extremely photogenic eruption of the Mount Etna volcano in Sicily seems to encapsulate both the country's beauty and turmoil in one striking image, so it's not surprising that Salvatores and his tireless editors return to the image a few times over the course of the movie.

Production companies: Indiana Production, Rai Cinema, Scott Free
Director: Gabriele Salvatores
Producers: Marco Cohen, Benedetto Habib, Fabrizio Donvito, Lorenzo Gangarossa
Executive producers: Ridley Scott, Liza Marshall, Jack Arbuthnott, Carlo Dusi
Editors: Massimo Fiocchi, Chiara Griziotti
Music: Vittorio Cosma, Riccardo Sinigallia, Gianni Maroccolo, Max Casacci

Sales: Rai Com

No rating, 84 minutes