"Blood of My Blood" by Marco Bellocchio (ITA)
Venice Film Festival 2015 - Main Competition
Name: Marta Corato
In 1965, Italian director Marco Bellocchio set his first feature film Fists In The Pocket in his ancestral town of Bobbio, in Northern Italy. His love and fascination with the land of his forebears pushed him to capture Bobbio on film again with his new film, Blood Of My Blood.
The film is divided in two almost completely independent parts, both set in Bobbio. The first story is set in the 17th century, while the second takes place in contemporary times.
In the first part, soldier Federico Mai is called to the town’s cloistered convent, where his priest brother committed suicide after an affair with a nun. The woman, Benedetta, has been accused of having plotted with the Devil against the priest and is being tried for witchcraft.
The same convent, also called a “prison”, is the setting of the second part of the film: a Russian billionaire is trying to buy it with the help of a local inspector, also called Federico Mai. What they don’t know is that Count Basta, who disappeared from Bobbio eight years previous, is now hiding in the convent and only leaves home at night.
The two parts of the film have many superficial points of connection – Pier Giorgio Bellocchio playing both the Federico characters, the key role of the Bobbio prisons, the theme of time and family – but fail to form a cohesive narrative. Blood Of My Blood feels disjointed, the two parts having completely different tones: while Benedetta’s trial is presented with pathos and dreariness, the Count’s misadventures have a satirical quality and an element of magic to them.
The story of 1600s Federico is peppered with elements that are ultimately useless, for example his strange relationship with the spinsters that are putting him up in Bobbio. His hypersexuality – he basically tries to copulate with every woman he speaks to – takes away from Benedetta’s trial and sacrifice.
On the other hand, the contemporary story manages to throw in the mix the corruption of local Italian governments, gentrification, the declining importance of tradition – all of this while maintaining a convincing balance between realism and fairly outlandish supernatural elements.
Blood Of My Blood buries its keystone in plain sight: the meaning of the film becomes apparent once watched with its title in mind. Both stories revolve around the importance of blood ties and how they guide our choices more than anything – sometimes with devastating results.
It is a pity that Bellocchio has completely camouflaged the powerful message of the film under its wonky structure and uneven tone, with a few random bits thrown on top. One of these seemingly casual elements is the soundtrack of the film, which is especially excruciating and includes an odd rendition of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters performed by a children’s choir.
It takes patience to wade through the many layers of Bellocchio’s film and its intricate pattern of history and metaphor, and time to disentangle its somewhat meandering structure, but everything that is hidden within the film makes the inconsistencies of Blood Of My Blood worth stomaching.