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A touching Slovenian drama set in a nursing home explores the fragility of memory and the fleeting nature of love – from the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


In Miroslav Mandić’s touching Slovenian drama, set in a nursing home for the elderly, Bruno (Sandi Pavlin) is in love with his co-resident, Duša (Silva Cusin). She too cares for him, but after each encounter he forgets her. Lost time and again in the past, he often wanders astray, trying to return home to his wife, and his dog – who are no longer there.

Sanremo is the type of storytelling that asks of us the simplest of things. It does not ask us to critique, to plough its depths to discern why it is aesthetically and emotionally pleasing, nor does it ask for us to discuss it with fevered passion. All it asks is to be heard – for us to give up 85 minutes of our lives and to hand ourselves over emotionally. We should nonetheless seek to preserve the simple and delicate emotional experience Mandić has crafted.

The use of sound to emphasise the movement and touch is striking. We not only see and hear, but are aware of the weight or gentleness, and it’s through sound that we feel the fabric of the film. The crispness of scissors cutting paper as the group create their collages, or the sound of Bruno’s footsteps, the sound is natural and not manipulated for dramatic effect. The lack of reliance on a soundtrack to drown out the diegetic noise enhances our ability to go beyond seeing, and to instead genuinely feel a world that sounds true to life. But when music is used, it does not detract because Mandić wisely uses it sparingly to maximise its effect. In one scene it’s orchestrated to the rhythm of Bruno’s movement, and in other moments music is used when it can be a voice to express feelings, or to heighten the emotion.

In our encounter with Sanremo, we should be willing to momentarily forget about the aesthetic – even if deserving of our attention. Similarly to the moments the couple shares, we must allow the story to emotionally move us, and carry us out to sea on the tide, and only every now and again take a moment to marvel at the simple and subtle beauty of the work. What we should do is restrain ourselves – unconsciously critique and consciously feel.

If cinema is known for its manipulation of time, then the story of a love that is forgotten, only to be rekindled when Bruno returns from past memories, is a fitting marriage. Sanremo builds itself around this simple idea of connections forged through memories, whether they’re shared together, or not. The pair remember in their youth, before they’d met in the nursing home, hearing Gigliola Cinquetti’s song, Non ho l’età at the 1964 Sanremo Festival. In their later years, Bruno’s declining memory means that their love can only be a series of first encounters for him, even if not for Duša. Their experience of the song at the festival is a touching way to signal that their relationship will always be fated to an inescapable distance.

The film asks us whether we take our memory for granted? It’s done with simplicity, by leaning into a scenario and nestling itself there. Sparing and repetitively stagnant, it will effectively touch a nerve for the audience, because it’s not difficult to empathise with its contemplation of the fragile nature of love and affection, that the filmmaker lays bare.

This idea is complimented by the change of seasons, from the sunshine to the rain and the snow, that represent the passage of time. Just as Bruno forgets Duša and slips into the past, remembering his wife and dog, the seasons are reminiscent of their fleeting moments. But Mandić’s success is that he forgoes the melodramatic, instead internalising the emotion. He conveys an ache of sadness and pain that we are asked to acknowledge, and not through melodramatic tropes.

Sanremo has just premiered at the 24th PÖFF Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where it’s showing in the Official Competition.

By Paul Risker - 24-11-2020

While technically an English-based film critic and interviewer, Paul shows his political disgruntlement towards his homeland by identifying instead as a European writer. You’ll often find him agree...

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