Happy as Lazzaro

Screening on 28/02/20

Italy 2018
Dir: Alice Rohrwacher
Starring: Adriano Tardiolo, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani
Cert 12A
127 mins

A remote Italian village. Peasants toiling on the land. A simple bucolic life. However, this is more a case of modern slavery than rural bliss, the villagers being virtual serfs on the estate of the imperious Marchesa de Luna. Only when we catch a glimpse of the aristocratic family, especially the Marchesa’s trendy son Tancredi, with relatively modern clothes and gadgets, do we realise that the action is not set in the remote past. The gentle Lazzaro, wide-eyed and serene, stands out among the villagers, always eager to help, and shamelessly exploited. He forms an unlikely friendship with Tancredi, who has his own agenda. A dramatic time shift sees the villagers relocated to a decaying cityscape, where they struggle to survive, but the saintly Lazzaro appears mysteriously unchanged. He renews his bond with the now haggard Tancredi, who still seeks to make use of his companion from the old days. ‘Happy as Lazzaro’ can possibly be seen as an allegorical, magic-realist tale of feudalism and exploitation. What is beyond question is that it is both impressively stylish and stylised, with shades of the great Italian art-house cinema of the 60s.