Monday, December 15, 2008

The Italian

Russian actor Kolya Spiridonov plays an orphan, adopted by an affluent childleses Italian couple and about to be shipped out of Russia, who is determined to find his mother.

Here is a wonderful film from Russian director Andrei Kravchuk that speaks directly to the power of God’s love as it is expressed in the bond between mother and child in the human family, at the same time it reveals the grotesque commercial aspects of the international adoption system, which more often than not treats orphaned children as commodities to be traded among desperate bidders. Kravchuk, a mathematician by training, was inspired to make The Italian after reading the story of an abandoned Russian child who learned how to read so he could search for his mother. His palette could be called drab and grey, were it not for the remarkable splashes of color that burst into its frames: the fly-away red hair of the teenaged orphan-prostitute who teaches the young protagonist his alphabet, the azure blue frames of the rural nursery’s doors, the burnt orange of the slum hovels in the nearby city. Likewise, Kravchuk’s theme could be characterized as dismal: a mafia of dead-ended never-to-be-adopted teenagers runs this orphanage; the dragon lady social worker threatens children with the mental asylum if they do not cooperate in her sleazy deals, and gangs of homeless juvenile thugs roam the streets of the local village. The Italian, however, is a firmly optimistic film, and well worth the viewing.

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