Cannes winner Alice Rohrwacher’s latest film is a wonderful fairy tale, that touches and beguiles through the lens of the innocent but loving Lazzaro. A beautifully ghostly tale that remains timeless and mesmerising.
Happy as Lazzaro is an incredibly intimate magical-realist film that is radiantly silent and hypnotising. I’d relate it to Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth that has a similar sense of innocence and beauty, it is a film that is delicately crafted and masterly executed.
Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo), a good-hearted young servant, lives in a valley somewhere in central Italy. The residents are a collective group of servants working for the Marquis who grow tobacco on land owned by the Marquis and her aristocratic family. They are sharecroppers, which as it turns out was made illegal in 1980s. There are few signs of modernity, they all live agrarian-rural life’s and are mainly unaware of the outside world.
Shot on Super 16mm, it lends a textured look that creates a strong sense of passion and fragility from the very first frame – in other words, it’s very welcoming. This sense of warmth elegantly cruises along as the film delves into a some-what surreal narrative. Rohrwacher’s film endures a shift that is both bewildering and beautiful, with the constant imagery of the wolf and what Lazzaro represents. As a fairy tale-like story it contains a familiar sense of innocence, but it is heightened to convey a true touch of purity in exploring the enigma of humans. The wolf could be perceived as a divine metaphor for power, perhaps similar to Little Red Riding Hood.
Watching the film, you can’t help but feel mesmorised. It tells a timeless story, that is a critique of society that is both extremly subtle in execution and blatant in subtext. Tardiolo’s performance as Lazzaro is full of melancholy and innocence, but it is through his eyes that he is able to convey so much. He has this ghost-like-all-too-perfect nature that is again, timeless and ill-fitting to any time period.
Hélène Louvart’s cinematography is searingly gorgeous. It contributes a feeling of intimacy as if it were welcoming you, these humanist elements only build on our connection to the otherworldly purity of Lazzaro.
Happy as Lazzaro is a searingly beautiful story, that is both a harsh critique of society and a simultaneously gentle film through Rohrwacher’s execution. It is a beguiling fairy tale that mesmorises.