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Cinema: A God Descends

2 minute read

Arturo’s Island. It’s a wise child knows its own father in the best of families, and Arturo’s family is plainly not the best. His mother died when he was born, and his father (Reginald Kernan) is a showy-shabby bird of passage who comes home to roost a couple of times a year. The boy (Vanni de Maigret), who is 15, lives all alone in a crumbling villa on a small Italian island, and in his innocence and need for an ideal imagines his old man as a far-wandering Odysseus, as a god whose advent must continually be implored. But when the god descends he scarcely condescends to notice the adoring boy, and in a day or two is gone again.

One day, without a word of preparation, the god brings home a bride (Key Meersman). Poor thing, she is only two years older than the boy, and the brute treats her just as badly. About two weeks after the wedding, without a word of preparation, he leaves her—pregnant. Alone together, the two children timidly fall in love, and when the baby is born, the son assumes the responsibilities his father has shirked. When the father returns, the son sees with awful clarity that his idol has feet of clay. One day, without a word of preparation, the son leaves the island, quietly determined to become the man his father is not.

As described in a 1957 novel by Italy’s Elsa Morante, the authoress wife of Author Alberto Moravia, Arturo was a brilliant youth whose imagination flashed all the colors of a Rimbaud. As depicted in Damiano Damiani’s film version of the book, the boy seems more like the Tom Sawyer of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Nevertheless, his story is touching, and it is interpreted by all three principals with aplomb and sensibility.

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