Italian writer/director Alice Rohrwacher’s debut feature Corpo Celeste (2011) is a hugely confident examination of faith and rebellious youth with an assured central performance from relative newcomer Yle Vianello. She stars as the 13-year-old Marta, whose impending confirmation clashes with her own physical passage into womanhood and forces her to question and consider all she has previously accepted.
Rohrwacher’s film bears a number of similarities to the equally accomplished debut feature from Katell Quillévéré, last year’s Love Like Poison (2010). Also dealing with themes of religion and burgeoning adulthood, Love Like Poison has a slightly more advanced visual language, but cannot match Corpo Celeste for the sheer authenticity of its approach and the unaffected naturalism of the performances.
Both films focus very intensely on their lead characters, inviting us to see the structure, benefits and hypocrisies of the village community through from their naive but unclouded perspectives. Corpo Celeste has a wonderful tactility and sense of space and location, acutely evoking the sensations and curiosity of childhood while refusing to shy away from the awkward and the confounding incidents that shape one’s understanding of their world.
Hélène Louvart – on a career high after her astounding work on Wim Wenders’ Pina (2011) – deserves special praise for her instinctive and distinctive 16mm cinematography. Her unobtrusively beautiful images remind of Bogumil Godfrejow’s work with underrated German filmmaker Hans-Christian Schmid.
With striking performances and a particularly wonderful third act, Corpo Celeste promises great work to come from Rohrwacher and the young cast.