The Man Who Will Come -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
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NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

ROME -- Giorgio Diritti's second feature, "The Man Who Will Come," is a dense historical drama that earned him the Silver Grand Jury prize at the Rome fest and the Audience Award. The film's sparse dialogue (in dialect rather than in Italian), strong acting and lack of sentimentality make it a unique film at home.

A sober, independent two-hour war movie without a major cast will be a tough sell both domestically and in North America, though a recent resurgence in European World War II-themed films could give the film a little boost in Europe.

"The Man Who Will Come" recreates events leading to a 1944 massacre of nearly 800 civilians (mostly women, children and the elderly) by SS soldiers in the mountains near Bologna. Despite the tragic backdrop, Diritti delicately depicts a year in the life of one the region's many poor, farming families.

Thoughtfully evoking questions on the nature of violence and survival, without judgment, the film's greater significance lies in its portrayal of what happens when some of the world's richest nations wage war against some of the world's poorest.

Eight-year-old Martina (Greta Zuccheri Montanari, mesmerizing) stopped speaking when her little brother died in her arms some years ago. Her mother Lena (Maya Sansa) is expecting another child. Her father Armando (Claudio Casadio in a faultless big-screen debut) does whatever he can to keep their large family, which includes Martina's aunt Beniamina (Alba Rohrwacher), fed and safe.

We see most of the action through Martina's eyes in this pastoral work. Diritti never romanticizes or plays down to her point of view. On the contrary, at times the film could soar emotionally higher, given the cast and especially that Zuccheri Montanari seems incapable of childish posturing. She wordlessly conveys depths of confusion, wonder and intelligence, her muteness a reflection of the unspeakable events taking place around her.

In the end, it is impossible not to hope that Martina and her family will be spared the genocide. Or be moved by unexpected scenes such as when, happily playing in the woods, the girl comes across a Nazi soldier forced by partisans to dig his own grave. The beautiful photography of the serene countryside only heightens the senselessness of the tragedy unfolding.

The man of the title could be one of many, from Lena's expected child to the Resistance fighters and Nazi troops in the surrounding hills. Which will come first, salvation or death? The characters can do little but wait for the answer to that question, caught powerless in the crossfire of a battle they did not begin.

Venue: Rome International Film Festival -- Competition

Production company: Aranciafilm, RAI Cinema
Cast: Maya Sansa, Alba Rohrwacher, Claudio Casadio, Greta Zuccheri Montanari, Stefano Bicocchi, Eleonora Mazzoni, Orfeo Orlando, Diego Pagotto
Director: Giorgio Diritti
Screenwriters: Diritti, Giovanni Galavotti, Tania Pedroni
Producers: Diritti, Simone Bachini
Director of photography: Roberto Cimatti
Production designer: Giancarlo Basili
Music: Marco Biscarini, Daniele Furlati
Costume designer: Lia Francesca Morandini
Editors: Diritti, Paolo Marzoni
Sales: Intramovies
No rating, 117 minutes