“The Hand of God”, being 17 years old in Naples, at the time of Maradona
by Paolo Sorrentino
Italian movie, 2:10 a.m., on Netflix from December 15
Paolo Sorrentino’s first openly autobiographical film, God’s hand revolves around two events that occurred during his adolescence: the transfer of Diego Maradona to the football club in his hometown and the accidental death of his parents, in their mountain chalet. He was to accompany them that day but Maradona was playing his first game in Napoli.
→ CRITICAL. In Lyon, Paolo Sorrentino talks about his cinema
God’s hand is therefore to be taken in both directions. This is the expression used by the Argentine footballer after a goal scored by hand against England during the 1986 World Cup and which he justified by saying he was inspired by the sky. Fabietto’s uncle (Paolo Sorrentino’s fictional double) takes her back, at her parents’ funeral. For him, it is ” God’s hand “ who saved him from certain death.
At 50, the brilliant Italian filmmaker (Il Divo, La Grande Belleza, Youth, series The Young Pope), known and celebrated for its baroque style, powerfully visual, returns to film in Naples, for the first time since its beginnings, in the district of its childhood. Initiatory film, strewn with emotions and questions, among loving parents and a whimsical, exuberant, delirious, colorful kinship.
A melancholy coloring
Effect of intimate disclosure for this great discreet? Sorrentino restricts his style and remains on the threshold of his usual magnificence. This unusual restraint gives this work a melancholy color, crossed by extravagant characters. A mystical aunt, archetype of the beautiful, plump Italian who frightens men, meets San Gennaro and the “Sparrow”, a popular Neapolitan figure who appears to dispense minor miracles. A country meal brings together the whole family, a talkative and sarcastic assembly, which awaits, excited, the arrival of a patch, the aged fiancé of an aunt who never stops consuming it. An audition by Fellini, which one does not see but that one hears, pretext to scroll through a gallery of “monsters” as appreciated by the maestro. The arrival of Maradona which literally freezes the population of Naples. The frequentation by Fabietto of smugglers and drug traffickers.
The parents’ death occurs in the middle of the film. Fabietto only has his brother as his confidant. Distraught, deprived of benchmarks, he looks for himself, certain that he will be a filmmaker, and confronts Antonio Capuano, the intransigent Neapolitan director who violently pushes him to his limits, an electric shock method to give birth to his vocation. Paolo Sorrentino would later collaborate on films by Capuano, his mentor.
A little too long, a little too stretched, God’s hand, exercise of gratitude and remarkable evocation of Naples at the end of the XXe century, is reserved for Netflix subscribers. It is indeed the paradox of this praise of cinema to be confined to domestic screens.