The Hand of God (2021)
Starring Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo
Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino
It feels like a rare treat these days to see a film that looks and feels genuinely artistic. Sorrentino’s Hand of God is a truly exquisite film, telling a story of life itself with a wonderful blend of drama and humour, showcased with some of the most understatedly picturesque shots you’ll see in any film.
A lot is made about this film being set in 1980s Naples. However, while the city is nice to look at, it is just the picture’s frame. For The Hand of God, it’s the closeness of the filmography that makes it so enjoyable.
Conversations over dinner tables and through windows hold more visual weight than the postcard-worthy coastlines and glittering streetlights. As with the writing, it’s the sense of humanity that is created in these moments that make them so special. The odd sprinkling of fantasia, whether a glittering chandelier or bright blue waters, is just the flair at the end of Sorrentino’s painting.
The quality of the direction in this film only lands with the help of some fantastic writing and storytelling. The film has a fantastic natural charm, led by the vibrant family of characters that the film introduces. Family is a huge theme of this story, and it is portrayed with such a warm touch that left my smiling for most of the film.
When the narrative switches its focus on the main character, the film takes on a slightly different tone. If there’s one criticism, The Hand of God perhaps doesn’t quite deliver the emotional weight expected given the subject matter. “Have you cried yet?” Our protagonist is asked more than once, and perhaps the lack of emotional payoff, for us and the main character, is a true reflection of the director’s feelings in a situation that is very real for him.
This is probably on me, but I am really struggling to pin down what kind of film this is without using an ill-fitting cliché. Many may refer to Sorrrentino’s film as a coming-of-age story, but I don’t think the film’s main character does ‘come of age’ at all. This film is like looking at a home video, someone’s life captured on film, with life-changing moments and everyday joys taking equal importance as they so often do.
I’m sure there will be other examples of this kind of filmmaking before, but I’m going to look at The Hand of God as one of the most magnificently-shot life stories I’ve ever seen and something I would urge everybody who enjoys cinema to watch.