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A 37-Minute Miracle
Le Pupille, film review

Dec. 11, 2022

by Nina Rodríguez

Le Pupille
Italian with subtitles in Spanish and English
Friday, December 16, 6pm

At least one of the series of short Christmas films Disney asked producer Alfonso Cuaron to deliver is a true Christmas miracle. This being director Alice Rohrwacher's Le Pupille, which premiered at Cannes this year, and is a must-see for this holiday season.

Rohrwacher, "She has a unique voice and an eye that captures humanity at its most complex, and she always portrays her characters with immense generosity, blurring the line between reality and poetics."

Rohrwacher, having worked with children (Corpo Celeste, The Wonders, Happy as Lazzaro - all award-winners at their respective Cannes Premieres), masterfully delivers the ultimate nostalgia of Christmas in this thirty-seven minute piece of joy.

Loosely based on seasons greetings renowned writer Elsa Morante sent to her friend Goffredo Fofi, Rohrwacher set the story at a nun-run boarding school for girls during wartime. In these times of scarcity, the girls spend advent isolated from the rest of the world, which they can only get a glimpse of through their window. Preparing a series of rituals with their own nativity play at the center, in all their innocence they end up in rebellion against their strict Christian adult authority. As Rohrwacher puts it, "It's a film about desires, pure and selfish; about freedom and devotion, about the anarchy that is capable of flowering in the minds of the girls within the confines of the strict boarding school."

Temptation arrives in the form of an irresistible pink cake. This embodies forbidden desires, triggering a series of clashes between the children's free spirits and the Mother Superior (marvelously embodied by the director's sister Alba Rohrwacher), ruling over her charges with an unyielding grip.

The film is shot on Super 16mm film, which, along with musical scenes sung by the young girls choir, caters to nostalgic memories of all Christmases past.

In the tradition of her feature debut Corpo Celeste which offered a look at Catholicism in contemporary Italy through the prism of a young girl's eyes, Le Pupille brilliantly portrays the emptiness of Christian devotions through a coming-of-age tale that manages to blend the best of classical Hollywood and Italian traditions in a masterfully crafted film where each frame resembles a painting.

Rohrwacher succeeds in delivering the magic of Christmas while also questioning the genre itself which traditionally comes with a moral lesson; at the end of Le Pupille the girls admit that they’re not sure what exactly the lesson of the film is. "I like the fact that the moral of this story is a bit bizarre," Rohrwacher says. "On the one hand, we had a Christmas story, and on the other, we had a lot of fantasy, imagination, my imagination and the viewer's."

Le Pupille will show for free on the big screen in San Miguel at Compartimento Cinematografico's Posada on December 16 at 6pm on Calzada de la Estación 59 and will be available on Disney+ for the holidays.

*****

Compartimento Cinematográfico is at Mezcal Art
next to Immigration on Calzada de la estación.
Admission is free.


See more from
Compartimento Cinematográfico
on Lokkal's full
movie schedule

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Nina Rodríguez, originally from Cologne, Germany, where she started working in the music industry, holds an MA in the Presentation and Preservation of the Moving Image from the University of Amsterdam and has been Head of Programming at the Guanajuato International Film Festival in Mexico since 2006. Having collaborated with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in the past, she is currently also part of the team behind Qumra, an initiative of the Doha Film Institute providing mentorship for international film projects from development through post-production. She served as Academic Coordinator for the Pueblo Mágico Mexican Film Residency in Tepoztlán and has curated showcases and participated on panels and juries at many other events including FICG, Tous Ecrans, Berlinale Talents, Tokyo IFF and Sarajevo Film Festival. In 2020, Nina opened Compartimento Cinematográfico, an independent cinema in San Miguel.

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