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Far away from Europe's big cities, at the latitude of North Africa, lives and works Vincenzo Floridia . He is a locomotive engineer in Sicily. He worked for 10 years in Northern Italy.
Based on Vincenzo Floridia's work and friends, this film creates a social portrait of modern day Sicily. The vitality and humanity of Vincenzo and his friends illustrate the fatalistic situation also evident in being "calm in hopelessness" , a condition already described, but in a different form, by the author Elio Vittorini in his novel concerning the 30 ' s Conversazione in Sicilia.
Osnabrück, Germany, Tage des unabhängigen Films 1996
Göttingen, Germany, Inventur 3 - Filmschau Niedersachsen 1996
Freistadt, Austria, Festival - Der neue Heimatfilm 1996
The portrait of a generation of still young Sicilians who have decided in foreign parts, despite the lack of perspectives, to return to their home towns. In unspectacular everyday observations this documentary film describes the life and thoughts of pensive people in the fascinatingly beautiful Sicilian landscape. He reports attentively and in great detail of values that make life in Sicily worth living.
At the beginning of Giuseppe Tornatores` "All are Fine" (fd 28 685) Marcello Mastroranni gets into a small Sicilian railcar in order to visit his children who are spread all over Italy. Whoever is young and has dreams has to leave Sicily northwards. Either the journey goes to north Italy or across the wide ocean. It has been like that for years. In his documentary Benjamin Geissler portrays a young Sicilian whose family didn`t fare any differently - for generations: his mother was in America, Vincenzo was born in Melbourne, where his parents had found work. But soon after his birth, his parents returned to Sicily - they were too homesick. Vincenzo and many of his contemporaries also left Sicily, but now in their mid-thirties have returned to Noto, to Ragusa, to Syracuse. Why does a young man return to a region in which there are still very few perspectives for work and development? Vincenzo Floridia, who was an engine driver in north Italy answers this question: "Life is more spontaneous in Noto and the attachment to family and friends is great." We come across many such homecomers in the film: one works as a baker, one is a photographer, another complains about the petrochemistry that is contaminating the environment, one of the few branches of work in Sicily.
What Vincenzo and his friends and colleagues have in common is that they are very aware of their situation in Sicily. They are pensive people who are tracked down in the film in the beautiful Sicilian landscape. The workshop director plainly admits that the engine stock he administers is in a catastrophic condition. Often an engine will break down the day after it has been repaired. The photographer describes the situation in which he took a photograph which is of importance to him. People standing in front of a church, monotonous atmosphere, loneliness prevails. Then a girl in a white dress begins to dance. For the photographer it represents the recovery of vitality, the reawakening outbreak of joie de vivre. Vincenzo Floridia is a fun-loving person. He has fun doing his work - he now drives railcars from Noto to Syracuse and back. The daily journey through the countryside through which Geissler`s film takes us leaves no room for claustrophobia. There are details, but they show what makes life for Vincenzo in Sicily worth living: a joke with his copilot on the job, a brief encounter at the change of shifts, the telephone conversation with his wife, his friends` memories of their childhood together and their meeting up again somewhere in Italy.
Geissler manages to show the cinematic portrait of a generation without commentary. They are Sicilians who have decided in foreign parts to return home, in defiance of the mafia. Vincenzo`s friend the baker has found an answer to the mafia: in his opinion it concerns living for reality and not merely for appearances.
Geissler avoids clichés and does not allow transfiguring things to slip into his picture of life in Sicily. When a train stands at the station for half an hour, a charming characteristic of the area isn`t given, but a cause for conversation with the nervous passengers. One of the passengers can be heard saying that the mafia itself is the government, which refuses to do anything against the actual problems in Sicily. But the unspectacular everyday observations do find a surprising climax after all, hence the title of the film. Technical progress reaches Noto, Vincenzo`s home town: Noto station, as all other stations on the line to Syracuse are to be automated. Instead of the station master, the level crossing barriers are to be closed in future with the press of a button in Syracuse. One of the railwaymen states serenely that it is well known that technical progress means a step backwards for the employment situation. We do not discover what the station master will do in the future. But perhaps that it is the last rose from the station garden in Noto which he gives to Vincenzo on his final day at work. Geissler had intended to report about people in Sicily and their daily lives away from the touristic perspective. He has succeeded.
...there is a great protagonist in the film. The desert: the deserted level crossing in the country, disturbed by the squeaking of the barriers being closed by hand; the station which is to be closed down because of "automation"; the baroque town of Noto which complete with scaffolding collapses (we view the cathedral a few months before its wretched collapse in March 1996); the most remote industrial complex in Europe which has become the factory for the unemployed, the garden of scrap metal. And then there are the pearls: the Festival of San Corrado (Saint Conrad) filmed with all its paganism with the faces, the gestures, the crying of the "Carriers". A most unforgettable impression. There is the Arabic cry of the itinerant street trader; there are the words, or rather the thread of words of the station engineer whose job it is to automate the station. A scene which shows the arrogant use of pseudo-technological jargon and the calm portrayal of progress with the consequence of the loss of jobs.
The "calm in the hopelessness", a recurring quote by Vittorini becomes visible, but as an alternative the hope and clarity of what has to be done emerges from the conversations and pictures. And for a station where roses will no longer grow, there is a world which will continue to pulsate and live, even when it has gone underground, in thousands of contradictions. Pippo Gurrieri
Vincenzo Floridia, or the last rose of Noto
a Documentary by Benjamin Geissler
with Vincenzo Floridia, Carlo Assenza, Corrado Assenza, Pippo Gurrieri, Giuseppe Leone and
Vincenzo Cimò, Francesco Floridia, Salvatrice Leone, Laura Bufalino, and many more.
Idea, direction: Benjamin Geissler
Camera: Giancarlo Pancaldi, Benjamin Geissler
Sound: Andrea Masciocchi, Peter Stockhaus
Assistant director: Nadia Malverti
Still photographer: Walther Dal Pesco
Editing: Benjamin Geissler
Mixing: Michael Bohle
Executive producer: Peter Stockhaus
Editor: RAITRE Giovanni Tantillo
quotations from "Conversazione in Sicilia" by Elio Vittorini
We thank those involved at MedienWerkstatt Linden / Hannover, the Michael Eiler Synchron, Berlin, and al those who helped in the realisation of this film, special thanks to Lelia Panza.
A Benjamin Geissler Filmproduktion
funded by Lower Saxony / Germany and RAITRE
© 1995 Benjamin Geissler Filmproduktion
Duration: 69'30" Min. Colour / Screen ratio: 1:1.66
Location: Sicily, February - July 1995
Original version: Italian, Sicilian
English version: Italian, Sicilian with English subtitles
Other versions: two-track bilingual: CH1: German voice over, CH2: Italian Original version
Available on DVD, VHS, Betacam SP (PAL) and also in (NTSC).
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