La Corrispondenza (2016)
“La Corrispondenza” or “The Correspondence” is a new film by renowned director Giuseppe Tornatore, the mastermind behind cleverly crafted “La Migliore Offerta” (2014), beautiful “Malena” (2000) and critically-acclaimed “Cinema Paradiso” (1988). The movie, with music from Ennio Morricone, is about an astrophysics student, Amy Ryan (Olga Kurylenko) and her infatuation with an older professor of astrophysics, Ed Phoerum (Jeremy Irons). When circumstances put a distance between them, the couple is determined to resort to any channel of communication to continue being “in touch”.
There are really two distinctive ways to look at this movie: it can be viewed as (i) a touching story of unlucky star-crossed lovers, who, despite their differences in age and background, are committed to each other and refuse to say goodbye; or (as ii) a story of an older married professor holding in an “emotional” hostage situation (through numerous e-mails, videos and messages) his much younger student, who he, essentially and indirectly, has taken advantage of. Throughout the movie, either the first or the second viewpoint dominates, but, quite unfortunately, by the end of the film, the general feeling is that the second viewpoint prevails, because the movie, largely through its repetitive “tricks”, fails to convince the audience in the beauty and tragedy of the couple’s affection.
The film begins unusually for a romantic drama: a happy couple in the arms of each other lovingly saying goodbye after a night of passion. Normally, this will be the ending of a movie and not the beginning. And then, we find out the reason for the drama. Given the nature of the film, it will be either loved or completely misunderstood. The film tries very hard to decorate in “hearts and flowers” what is essentially a past love affair between young, beautiful, tender and submissive Amy and middle-aged, charismatic, but also a bit manipulative and paternalistic Ed. The movie also tries to “reverse” the roles, and make Amy stronger and Ed weaker: Amy works as a stunt woman alongside her studies, and Ed was battling an incurable illness. However, this does not make the plot more balanced or the protagonists’ obsessive relationship tenderer. As with “Malena”, Tornatore prioritises the beauty of the imagery and situation over the substance.
The positive aspect of the film is, of course, its relation to the present day. In the age of social media communication, be it through Skype or Facebook, many people would relate personally to the film and its main premise: the two protagonists juggle their busy lives, while leading a “long-distance” relationship. Although “La Corrispondenza” is original in certain aspects of the story, the movie could also be classified as a distant cousin of a mix between “You’ve Got Mail” (1998) and “Just Like Heaven” (2005), but taken to a whole new level.
There are also admirable attempts to create a philosophical – almost “galactic” – significance to the story and the relationship. Amy and Ed seem to keep talking about lost souls in the universe who search and then recognise bodies they wish then to be united with/reincarnated into. “La Corrispondenza” also deals expertly with the topic of death, loss and grief, and the emotion is conveyed precisely right, even if the story weakens the impact. The fact that that there is a secret passion involved only makes the story more cinematically delicious. “Absurd” films could be very successful and critically acclaimed, e.g., “Wings of Desire” (1987) and “Ghost” (1990), so the “absurd” premise of “La Corrispondenza” should not really be detrimental to the film.
The acting is also convincing. Kurylenko really comes across as a young woman obsessed with her professor on a deeper level, seeing both a mystery to be discovered and a mutual-understanding in him, and grieving for his absence. Jeremy Irons is his usual Jeremy Irons, playing a coolly sarcastic knowledgeable professor who is authoritative and powerful in his presentation and image. It becomes easy to believe how young Amy (Kurylenko) could see almost superhuman abilities in her lover-deity. Incidentally, Kurylenko already has experience of being in a movie with little substance and much artistic merit, i.e. “To the Wonder” (2012), while Irons has recently appeared in too many high-profile movies (“Race” (2016), “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (2016) & “High Rise” (2016)), to distinguish “La Corrispondenza” as something special.
The other good thing about this film is that it is stylish, and the beautiful soundtrack by Ennio Morricone makes this picture strangely nostalgic and appealing. Besides, there are picturesque scenery of Italy, and York and Edinburg, UK.
In sum, “La Corrispondenza”’s plot could be regarded as either completely ludicrous or very touching, but the fact remains that the film runs out of ideas soon after it had started, projecting the same twists on a repeated cycle with Ed’s musings boringly bombarding not only poor Amy, but also the audience. 6/10