Some old pictures recorded on a tape show a young ballet performer and his ensemble dancing to the notes of Don Quixote’s second act. The performer moves beautifully, with great passion and grace. Meanwhile, a man in his late forties is dancing to the same melody in his tiny studio flat, while the images of the young performer are projected on a white blanket hanging next to his kitchenette. We quickly realise that both dancers are the same person. This is the powerful opening of Giovanni Bucchieri’s debut feature 100 Seasons, which had its world premiere in competition at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Sharply and effectively, Bucchieri—who is portraying a fictionalised version of himself in this film—introduces one of the two main themes unpacked by his work, namely that of lost youth. As we move forward, however, we realise that the core of 100 Seasons revolves instead around his first love. Giovanni heavily suffers from bipolar disorder, he is struggling financially, and spends his days restlessly, hoping to make a comeback as a musician and watching the home videos depicting his younger days and the woman he loved, Louise.
Meanwhile, the life of Louise (played by Midsommar actress Louise Peterhoff) took a totally different turn than that of Giovanni’s. After studying dance with him, she became an established stage director and choreographer and is now working on her own version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—a play she strongly dislikes, as it is “about two kids who didn’t understand anything.” Living in a spacious countryside house, she seems to be on rather cordial terms with her ex-husband (Alexander Mørk-Eidem) and takes care of her teenage daughter, Sasha (Vera Ölme Peterhoff).
Through excellent writing and solid direction, Bucchieri crafts a tale wherein reality and fiction blend. More than once, the viewer might wonder what is true, what is overdramatised, and what is simply born out of fantasy. One thing is certain: Giovanni and Louise—as well as the fictionalised versions of themselves—are profoundly fascinating characters. Despite their significant differences in terms of lifestyles and personalities, we discover how they are both lonely and in love with their craft, yet still somehow frustrated.
Bucchieri has gifted us with an intense emotional journey—combining tenderness, irony, anger, and a sense of doom together with his immense love for art in all its forms.
Interestingly, we get to know them little by little, and through meaningful narrative choices. For example, we get acquainted with Louise’s loneliness when, after a bad day at work, she ends up alone in a bar flirting with a stranger and suddenly realising how little pleasure this is giving her. Giovanni, on the other hand, seems to live on another planet, and his lonely days are only comforted by the heart-warming, sporadic presence of Anita (elegantly portrayed by veteran Karin Bertling), an 80-year-old friend living next door. In one of the film’s most touching scenes, Giovanni organises for her a surprise birthday party in his studio flat. With the candour and tenderness of a mother or an old aunt, she tells him, “You’re the most wonderful boy in the world!”
Bucchieri decides not only to blend reality with fiction, and present with past, but he also explores a more oneiric dimension, in particular through several sequences shot in the garden of an old castle in Stockholm. In these scenes, both characters wear 18th-century outfits. The garden is one of the few otherworldly places where Louise and Giovanni meet, speaking straightforwardly to each other and trying to recollect what brought them to the break-up.
But there’s more. The director shows great courage by being frank about the darkest moments caused by his bipolar disorder, forcing him to confront his inner demons, often with painful consequences. The cathartic process in his work is plain to see on screen, even though we are aware that it is rich in poetic licences and the result of carefully planned plot devices and staging choices. It’s a kind of artistic sincerity that’s quite rare to see in the seventh art these days.
Technically speaking, the film’s fast-paced editing and engaging score punctuate Giovanni’s mood swings and Louise’s moments of realisation, organically merging the scenes set in the present with the flashbacks recorded on tape. The score in particular mainly includes original songs written and performed by Giovanni, along with a few well known tracks such as Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel.
Bucchieri has gifted us with an intense emotional journey—combining tenderness, irony, anger, and a sense of doom together with his immense love for art in all its forms, including theatre, dance, music, literature and, obviously, film. Perhaps unintentionally, Bucchieri embarks on a path that loosely echoes that of the desperate and unrequited love between Italian poet Dante Alighieri and his muse Beatrice Portinari. Like Dante, “midway upon the journey of his life,” Giovanni goes through his personal Hell, but his way to Paradise is marked by twists and turns. His ultimate goal is not salvation and beatitude, but peace and acceptance. The end of 100 Seasons is truly rewarding, telling us how, sometimes, two lovers are like two parallel lines that never meet—a tragic, affectionate farewell.
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