Critique "The Hand of God": a portrait of the filmmaker as a young man

The extended family they occupy is a noisy, caustic, sometimes violent clan. A genealogical chart is not provided: the public is thrown ...


The extended family they occupy is a noisy, caustic, sometimes violent clan. A genealogical chart is not provided: the public is thrown into the domestic fray like a new spouse or country cousin, to make sense of things as they happen. We’re invited to a sprawling lunch full of bad manners, brutal teasing, and pointless advice. Aunt Patrizia lays naked on the deck of a boat. An angry matriarch dressed in a fur coat bites into a mozzarella ball as if it were the apple from the Garden of Eden.

In this context, how did Fabietto not grow up to make films? Its nuclear family is just as chaotic, although less gaudy dysfunctional than some of the collateral branches. Her mother, Maria (the wonderful Teresa Saponangelo), is adept at juggling oranges and making pranks. (One of them involves another notable of Italian cinema, Franco Zeffirelli, whose assistant Maria masquerades as the phone.) Her husband, Saverio (Toni Servillo, a staple of Sorrentino’s cinematic universe), works at the Bank of Naples, although he proudly calls himself a Communist. On ideological principle, he refuses to buy a television with remote control.

Fabietto’s brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert) is an aspiring actor until an audition with Fellini, who finds his face “too conventional”. Sorrentino shares Fellini’s taste for strange, sometimes grotesque human faces and physique. Perhaps his most Fellinian quality, however, is his commitment to emotional anarchy. Feelings don’t come in neat bundles or move in a straight line. Anguish and fun are neighbors, sometimes even synonymous. Pleasure turns into pain. Sarcasm suddenly gives way to a serious feeling.

The disharmony in the Schisa house is comically banal – an almost invisible sister monopolizes the bathroom; an aristocratic landlord knocks on the ceiling with a broom – until Saverio’s infidelity turns it into melodrama. And then, almost exactly halfway through the film, something terrible happens, a hammer blow of fate that transforms the family, Fabietto and “The Hand of God” itself.

The title, moreover, does not refer to theology but to the history of football. When Sorrentino’s Neapolitans aren’t bickering, gossiping or eyeing each other, they wonder if the great Argentinian midfielder Diego Maradona will come to play for the city team. When he does, it looks like a miracle, and glimpses of him on the pitch or on TV are like little magical eruptions – especially the famous hand-assisted goal in the 1986 World Cup that Maradona awarded. to divine intervention.

Fabietto is less a fairytale prince than a sorcerer’s apprentice. The graceful and alert Scotti is a silent presence but not a passive one. The shift from Fabietto’s point of view from no longer boy to almost man is the most subtle realization of a film that is not much concerned with subtlety.

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