Tre piani (2021)
Directed by: Nanni Moretti | 119 minutes | drama | Actors: Riccardo Scamarcio, Margherita Buy, Alba Rohrwacher, Adriano Giannini, Elena Lietti, Nanni Moretti, Denise Tantucci, Alessandro Sperduti, Anna Bonaiuto, Paolo Graziosi, Tommaso Ragno, Stefano Dionisi, Teco Celio, Francesco Acquaroli, Daria Deflorian
‘Tre piani’, based on the book ‘Three Floors Up’ by Eshkol Nevo, starts in medias res. A heavily pregnant woman (Rohrwachter) leaves her apartment in the evening, gets cramps in the street and sees a young man (Sperduti) hit a woman. The car comes to a stop against a facade and a middle-aged couple rushes out. The slightly injured young man is apparently their son.
We follow these individuals in their mutual relationships. The father (Moretti) is a judge; the son has emotional problems because of his hard hand, it turns out later. Meanwhile, we meet the sympathetic couple Lucio (Scamarcio) and Sara (Lietti), who live in the house where the car ran into. Their daughter Francesca also has psychological problems; it’s not the only subplot.
A bit much subplot, unless everything is congruently put together by the veteran Moretti (‘La stanza del figlio’). The noise remains; ‘Tre piani’ is a house of cards of family worries, situated in and around an apartment building in Rome. Then as a filmmaker you have a problem that can only be solved by clever intervention, as Hitchcock did with ‘Rear Window’.
Moretti thinks he can get away with rippling art-house drama, but without a guiding perspective like Jimmy Stewart’s in the aforementioned Hitchcock (a house-bound man spies on neighbors’ lives) the viewer is the spy; without a perspective-technical intervention, a solid literary frame story is not forthcoming. The move from Tel Aviv to Rome is already a difficult one; a demonstration against asylum seekers is not an intifada.
Moretti’s own acting is convincing with that of Scamarcio; the other protagonists are decent. The viewer is forgotten. He thinks he is looking at a quality arthouse product, and is presented with subplots with unrelated complications – such as sexually charged looks, the suggestion of child abuse and a troubled father-son relationship. Soap with arthouse sauce, a slow tempo and classical music.
Italian films often suffer from exuberance: family you cannot escape that, is the message. People experience misery that should be finite, but the protagonists do not let go of each other and Pandora’s Box is wide open. We know that from our own lives, right? It is up to the filmmaker to indicate; he doesn’t. In fact, he forgets to cut his own flesh; that’s monkey watching.