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By Whitney Sommers
“Happiness is in the little things.” Summer of Giacomo portrays the warmth of a summer day, the cool water of a flowing river and the company of a teenage friend.
In addition to the innocent beginnings of love, the audience also experiences the progression of these feelings into the desire for more. Filmmakers often seek to capture passionate physical love rather than the yearning it stems from. In his film, director Alessandro Comodin captures this desire perfectly through candid interaction with a handheld camera.
The film is set over the course of a relaxed summer in Italy. Nineteen-year-old Giacomo Zulian and his friend Stefania Comodin spend their days together swimming in the blue water of a river hidden in the forest. They fight, flirt, laugh, have picnics and nap on the riverbank.
Giacomo has recently undergone cochlear implant surgery allowing him to experience sound for the first time. The director explained in a Q & A after the film that he initially intended to capture Giacomo’s metamorphosis from being deaf to being able to hear. He spent over two years filming his friend Giacomo but admitted that he didn’t discover much. So the film became a documentation of Giacomo’s summer with his friend Stefania, Comodin’s younger sister.
English subtitles accompany the Italian dialogue of the teenagers. It’s not your typical documentary filled with interviews and archival footage. Rather, it is a combination of long and short shots of the two on a single handheld camera. Alessandro explained that there was no script, no schedule, just a lot of waiting. He wanted to give his audience moments of reality that make the film and characters so relatable.
The handheld camera succeeds in this and allows for close-up and personal recording as well as long shots. The director doubled as the videographer and captured the intimacy between the teens while also giving them space to interact freely.
Giacomo is energetic and full of life. His character brings an enjoyable humor to the film that is truly entertaining. In contrast, Stefania is quieter and more reserved, perhaps because her brother is filming her. Nonetheless, it is clear that the two develop some sort of love for each other over the course of the summer. The space between them lessens when they dance, hug, swim and caress each other. The teenage desire for adventure and passion lingers in the air.
Overall the film does take a bit of patience, but an interesting twist near the end makes the wait worthwhile. The director also explained that he meant to leave some things open to the interpretation of his audience. His work is part fiction but the characters are real. The film is slightly staged in that he sends teenagers out to spend time together. It is a real documentary in that all of their interaction is candid. This is something that makes the film interesting because it combines a movie theater escape with a real-life documentary feel.
Vox Rating: VVV
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