Having enjoyed Ferzan Ozpetek’s La finestra di fronte (Facing Windows) many years ago, I have followed Ferzan Ozpetek’s movies since 2007 whenever I see his name at the Lavazza Italian Film Festival’s line-up. I didn’t particularly enjoy Saturno contro (Saturn in opposition) when I saw it in 2007, and Un giorno perfetto (A Perfect Day) was a bigger let-down in 2009. Mine vaganti (Loose Cannons) was enjoyable in 2010. I can truly say that Magnifica presenza (Magnificent Presence) – the latest Ozpetek’s movie is a beautiful story which returns to a similar thread that makes me love La finestra di fronte.
The movie is about Pietro (Elio Germano), a likeable croissant baker who dreams about becoming an actor. When he moves to an old apartment in the Monteverde area of Rome, he discovers that the apartment is haunted by a cast of actors and actresses from 1940’s. They don’t realise that the world has left them behind – they’re frozen in time, thinking that Italy is still at war. The performers want to know the fate of one of their colleague, Livia Morosini – whether she survives or whether she is captured by the enemy. Thrown into this ghost story is Pietro’s inability to have a relationship due to his slightly intense nature, and his cousin Maria (Paola Minaccioni) who has fallen pregnant to one of the lawyers in her office.
Magnifica presenza wears its heart on its sleeve – and although there are bits of the movie that I feel are totally unnecessary, like the psychic who helps Pietro find Livia, the transvestite who is attacked in front of Pietro’s apartment, and the episode of Pietro being hospitalised. However, with such a heartfelt storytelling by Ozpetek, it’s really hard not to like this movie. Ozpetek returns to the tried and tested story about unrequited love, relationships that are separated by time, as well as loneliness and loss – with such sincerity.
I also appreciate Ozpetek’s finale of the movie – leaving us with our own version of the story about who Pietro ends up dating at the end, and the fate of the ghosts. I left the theatre smiling, with a hankering to listen to Nat King Cole’s version of Perfidia that is featured in the movie. Of the three movie that I have seen so far this year from the Lavazza Italian Film Festival, Magnifica presenza is the highlight thus far. I love it.