Since moving to the UK I’ve felt the desire to re-discover my roots: Respiro is one of those movies I had heard a lot about when it first came out in 2002, but back then I didn’t feel the urge of watching it because I thought I had time to watch whenever I wanted. The time came when I was already living here. And what an emotional journey it was when I first watched it on an English rainy evening (I actually don’t remember, but being the UK I’m assuming it was raining…).
Respiro is set in a small town on the Sicilian coast in the 60’s. The kids play ancient games, the fishermen fish, everyone goes to church on Sunday, the women gossip. Grazia is a fisherman’s wife. She loves dancing and singing on her own, wearing bright colours, talking openly to people. She’s impulsive, emotional, carefree. She really is a bit wild for the local standards, or shall I say a bit mad. Her husband too thinks she’s a cuckoo and plots with some relatives to take her to the North, Milan, to see “a special doctor” that will cure her (tame her). But Grazia runs away when she realises what’s going on, and disappears. What happens at the end, you’ll have to watch the movie to know.
This is the movie that made me fall in love with Emanuele Crialese’s work. His “Sicilianity” comes out in everything he makes. His love and fascination for the sea, true of every islander, shapes all his movies and gives birth to some of the most poetical and magical cinematic scenes you can ever imagine (just watch the movie and you’ll know what I mean).
I guess it’s more fairy tale than real life. In real life women like Grazia would have been treated much worse. After all, we are talking about a small village in the middle of nowhere in the 60’s: Sicily or Wales, I guess it’d been the same. But Crialese’s story isn’t a (physically) violent one. It’s more eerie, sensual, sexual, emotional. It’s a story of the sea, of the salt, of the sun and the wind, of the colours of Sicily, and of a woman as contradictory, strong and beautiful as the island she lives on.
If you liked this, watch “The Golden Door” too. But Respiro‘s beauty is incomparable. Watch the trailer here.