“Italian Studies” has the Oscar-nominated Vanessa Kirby in the lead and leaves the audience with a fever dream experience.
“Italian Studies” is a film about dislocation, self-identity, and has a very layered narration, but struggles on many levels, while trying to deliver the message it intended to deliver. “Italian Studies” is written and directed by Adam Leon and stars Vanessa Kirby portraying the role of Alina, a woman struggling with amnesia, who is often losing her memories and the places she has been and even her name.
Before we get to know about Alina and her character, audiences are pushed to travel with her in flashback sequences that try to connect with the current scenarios. Which is a hefty task. Alina is yet another confident in New York, who is strolling around the beautiful streets of the city, with her dog. Alina stops at a store and her amnesia strikes and she is wiped out from all her memories.
This particular sequence is handled really well compared to the rest of the film. The scene of Alina having her amnesia episodes is so well done. With a lot of jumbled sound schemes and close zoom-ups that fully immerse the audience, despite losing its track as the movie progress further.
Alina leaves her dog behind and heads out into the city trying to find out her identity and a chance at regaining her memory. As Alina keeps wandering across the city, she comes across a young man from the city named Simon played by Simon Bickner. Simon seemingly inspires her to write a novel with all the short stories that she experiences. Adam Leon directed Italian Studies tries and succeeds in trying a very disoriented form of storytelling and tries to convey its message in a very confounding and confusing nature, and is a little risky move in and of itself.
The cinematography and camera department does a remarkable job in achieving this effect throughout the movie. The grainy quality and the aspect ratio, Distorting the images, blocking and framing of certain shots, handheld camera work, quick transitions from one scene to the next, all of these play a very crucial role in keeping the audience intrigued. This is present right from start to finish, yet it fails to capitalize on it. The initial setup of the film manages to put its audience in the same state as our lead character Alina (Vanessa Kirby) – confused, trapped, unsure of what’s happening and where the story is progressing, and catching up the events.
Vanessa Kirby is magnetic and has a very strong screen presence. The film uses it to the fullest extent possible. Kirby plays the role of Alina, a woman who tries to hold and keep herself very collected, with all the events that are unfolding and how she reacts to them. The performances from all the actors around Vanessa Kirby do their characters justice, Simon Bickner is the absolute best standout compared to the rest of the cast, and holds his own screen power, in his scenes with Vanessa Kirby. He plays the role of young Simon perfectly, who is trying to figure out life, the same way our main lead tries to do so.
Italian Studies is one of the films that need to be felt which would help us understand and connect all the events that took place, leading to the final act of re-discovering. which is a huge risk, considering the drama and dialogue-heavy route it takes. With a total runtime of fewer than 90 minutes and cut by 4 editors at hand, the movie still fails to connect all the dots and feels like a fever dream experience.
Italian Studies is now playing in select theatres and is available on VOD.
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