Here’s quite the experience of a film, one that requires you to wholly engage with it, yet also relax and let it wash over you. It’s a very heady tale on display, starting off comprehensively enough until it begins juggling many timelines and anachronisms at once.
Our titular character (Adriano Tardiolo) seems more complacent than happy, and he also seems to be more than a bit gullible. At the farming community he resides in, he is treated like a servant-boy by the extensive family and neighbours, where he gladly attends to everyone’s orders. But when he goes searching for the property owner’s son, he falls off a cliff and into a coma, though this is when the film gets into more wild fantasy territory.
The time Lazzaro spends unconscious doesn’t add up – he wakes up and ends up in the city where he meets up with various members of the farming community, though some have aged decades more than others (even the dog still seems to be alive). Some of these farmer workers he once knew have been “liberated” from their demeaning and outdated work conditions, though now struggle as near-destitutes in their new urban concrete living.
Happy as Lazzaro seems to play out like it’s laying down the tracks as it chugs along them. Lazzaro himself, acting a bit like a young Italian Forrest Gump, inadvertently uses his susceptibility to move from one location and scene to another, bringing the people he once knew back together and apart again. This film follows its own very unique logic – you should not allow its dreamlike state to distract you too much from this involving array of characters.
It’s a continuously confounding experience being subjected to such a disjointed film, yet its oddball nature never detracts from the emotional power and socioeconomic topics it taps into. Its auteur-ish writer-director Alice Rohrwacher hasn’t quite made a masterpiece yet, but given the personality and uncompromised originality of this film, she likely has one in her.
Happy as Lazzaro plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, February 25 to Sunday, March 3, 8pm, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, March 5 to Friday, March 8, & Sunday, March 10, 7:30pm.