INTRODUCTION. My unplanned selection from the EIFF programme this year, a foreign language documentary about a weapons testing range in the Italian countryside and how it has affected those in the vicinity. My EUFS review is here. Not your typical documentary, Materia Oscura does not feature voiceovers, interviews or dramatisations. In fact, nobody says anything comprehensible at all until we’re 30 minutes into the film.
CHARACTERS. Technically this shouldn’t be a critique category as character presence is so minimal and observational that there is little to no progression in their development. I will say however that the people who do turn up are integral. There is no sob story cliché with a victim of thorium poisoning lamenting to a camera- only glimpses of their everyday lives, how it has been affected by the poisoning and interruptions by the military. In the second half of the story we are introduced to a farmer and his son; without meaning to, they will break your heart. There aren’t many characters but there is an overwhelming sense of life in ruin.
STORY. Materia Oscura is a movie that has been tailored by clips of weapon launches, countryside routine and – oddly enough – of the creators putting the documentary together from old film. Disorienting but even this has its charms as the premise relies heavily on moving images; directors D’Anolfi and Parenti juxtapose visual and audial elements to staggering effect. I was especially impressed by their striking use of negative print and sweeping views of the Salto di Quirra landscape.
CONCLUSION. While lighthearted moments are scarce and Materia Oscura progresses slowly for an 80 minute production, it has many sublime moments. If you can be patient, if you can resist the urge to fidget, you’ll spot a sprinkling of gold here. Otherwise I would avoid stepping into a cinema for this.
CHARACTERS: N/A STORY: 7/10 REWATCH FACTOR: 4/10 OVERALL: 6/10