'N-Capace': Turin Review

N-Capace Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Bibi Film

N-Capace Still - H 2014

A sentimental journey through personal and collective memory

Italian stage veteran Eleonora Danco turns an autobiographical documentary into a piece of cinematic performance art

The past is still very present in this debut documentary by the Italian stage actor and director Eleonora Danco, an arty nostalgia trip which balances navel-gazing narcissism with offbeat charm. Danco plays a version of herself onscreen, blurring the line between performance and reportage as she confronts the lingering ghosts and collective memories of her hometown.

Full of poetic and surreal visual flourishes, N-Capace is a small personal project, but it captures some of the achingly nostalgic beauty of Federico Fellini’s classic confessional or Agnes Varda’s masterful bio-doc The Beaches of Agnes. Danco herself cites Samuel Beckett and Luis Bunuel as inspirations. Following its world premiere at last month’s Turin Film Festival, where it earned a special commendation from the jury, further festival bookings should follow. After that, more culturally highbrow TV channels may prove to be the most receptive launch platforms.

Revisiting the coastal town of her youth, Terracina, Danco taps into some bittersweet childhood memories and tries to unravel the emotional aftershocks of her mother’s death 10 years ago. Playing a kind of emblematic heroine in a Roman toga, she stages theatrical tableaux in public spaces, with an outdoor bed serving as a recurring motif. Danco approaches the documentary form as performance art, whether posing fully nude or submerging herself in a bath full of biscuits.

So far, so self-indulgent. But between the stagey tantrums and soul-searching angst, Danco also quizzes the town’s current generation of teenagers and senior citizens on subjects like love, sex, death and religious faith. These public confession sessions yield some funny and tender moments, including bizarre claims that Terracina has a genuine community of werewolves. Sportingly, many interviewees also agree to go along with the film’s stylized look, performing amateurish dance routines or wearing masks made from photos of their younger selves.

Danco also interviews her own father, who repeatedly deflects her more private questions but agrees to don an astronaut suit to hallucinatory comic effect. In the midst of all the childlike role-playing and self-absorbed whimsy, there is a solemn subtext to these scenes between father and daughter, where mortality and regret sneak into the movie and darken its playful tone. N-Capace demands patience and tolerance from the viewer, but it eventually accumulates a real emotional force to match its inventive visual style.

Production company: Bibi Film

Cast: Eleonora Danco

Director-screenwriter: Eleonora Danco

Producer: Angelo Barbagallo

Cinematographer: Dara D’Antonio

Editors: Desideria Rayner, Maria Fantastica Valmori

Costume designer: Alessando Lai

Music: Markus Acher

Sales company: Bibi Film, Rome

No rating, 80 minutes