Writer and Director: Giorgio Ferrero
If you think that your lockdown is lonely, then spare a thought for the men in Giorgio Ferrero’s dazzling examination of solitude. We may have been forced into quarantine by global events but Ferrero’s men have chosen to work in trades that mean that they hardly see a soul. However, these men are not isolated in a romantic pastoral, but within vast structures that humankind has made: oil fields, cargo ships, waste disposal incinerators and anechoic chambers. These are the beautiful things of the title.
It seems a shame not to watch this odyssey on the big screen, but even watching on a laptop the images that Ferrero captures are stunning. A solitary man walks along a deserted road in an oil field that used to be home to so many workers that a baseball field was built. Now Van can only mime the way he would strike the ball. Danilo spends his life on cargo ships that are as long as the Empire State Building is tall. 25 000 people work in the Empire State Building, but the cargo ship is home to only 25 workers, and the desolate decks are Danilio’s to play in.
Andrea works in a futuristic anechoic chamber measuring the acoustic properties of toys and cars. Without an echo, this room brings silence and Ferrero manages to bring this silence to the screen in such a way that you might stop breathing. While Andrea works in a sterile environment, Vito has to don a mask for his work, cleaning up the ashes in a huge waste unit. It is the most frightening landscape of all, a fierce dystopia that is endless and robotic. Andrea is the king of this wilderness; at one point he looks like Hannibal Lecter, at another, like a modern-day John the Baptist.
At points Ferrero lets the men’s stories overlap through voiceovers, and music that owes a good deal to artists such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and Michael Nyman if he were on speed.. Toward the end of this 90-minute film, the minimalist sound, composed by Ferrero and Rodolfo Mongitore, evolves into a symphony of emptiness and memory. It is vast and crazy, and at times seems more installation than film. It’s an outrageous finale, but Ferrero holds one more surprise up his sleeve.
Playing as part of the We Are One digital Film Festival, Beautiful Things has been put forward by the Venice Film Festival, where it won best Italian film in 2017. It deserves to be more well-known, and will surely be categorised as a cult portrayal of our love to consume. Look around you now and see how much stuff you have accumulated, and think how much of it will end up burning in a waste plant. Our need to consume burns, and yet silence scorches in this beautiful film.
Runs here until 10 June 2020