In the mood for quirky European romance?
If quirky to you means less plot-driven and more character-driven story, this is definitely the film for you. Alaska manages to converge intense melodrama and layered protagonists into a soup of heavy, hard to watch theatre. While it is a film, the acting and cinematography is reminiscent of classical acting, and the drama that ensues from the moment the two main characters meet is nothing short of a show.
From assault to theft to carefully forged bonds with near-strangers, the crime hardly takes a backseat to the tumultuous romance spearheaded by Fausto and Nadine. There is enough action to make one forget that it’s a romance, except in the quiet moments. In a mixture of French and Italian with English subtitles, Nadine and Fausto’s conversations swing wildly from sharp banter to shouting matches to whispered confessions. The movie bills their love as being their downfall, and while that must ultimately prove true (it is, after all, a European film), they find solace in each other that can almost mask the pain they both feel so often, and so viscerally.
The film feels long at certain parts, only because it is shot in such a way that the passage of time is apparent. This is necessary as we see the characters evolve from more or less happy, go-lucky, apathetic youths, to agonized adults with a mutual obsession with both each other and ruining their own lives. When Alaska begins, their chance meeting on a balcony seems forced. She’s standoffish, not in the mood to hang out with him, but interested in the access he has as a waiter in the hotel’s restaurant. It seems after everything hits the fan that she will never see him again- yet she visits him in prison, and takes him home with her when he finally is released. From then on, it’s an emotional rollercoaster that may have Fausto wishing to be back in jail, but the audience riveted. Nadine and Fausto are strangers at the beginning, and something not quite like strangers in the end. It certainly raises the question of what love really is- is it something people actually feel, or do we create it to fill a void we can’t quite articulate?
Definitely not for the faint of heart, Alaska is more stressful than an exam and more rewarding than most romance films can hope for.
We screened the film at Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, which was co-organized with Istituto Luce Cinecittà in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute of New York.