Scenes from a man’s life.  The Italian writer/director Abel Ferrara has written an apparent partial autobiographical account of his life—seemingly (my interpretation) as expiation for things in his past about which he has/is experiencing guilt. The story moves rather slowly across events, with forays into past events and, presumably, symbolic and metaphorical fantasies that encompass external as well as internal experiences.  The main character masterfully delivered by Willem Dafoe is a filmmaker with a younger wife and small child.  We get an insightful cross-section of significant elements and happenings in his life, with the fantasies serving to illustrate unconscious factors underlying his actions.

We learn that Tommaso (Dafoe) is a recovering addict living in Italy with his wife Nikki (Chiriac) and daughter Deedee (Ferrara) in an apartment that must be entered through a series of locked doors/gates/elevator, suggesting from the outset preoccupations with security and control.  Indeed, these do become issues across time for Tommaso.

Dafoe at his finest

The movie shows pictures of their daily life, the enjoyment and delight Tommaso gets in taking care of his daughter, the intense relationship between mother and child, the different versions Tommaso and Nikki have of what married life should be, significant events in their early lives that contributed to their adult personalities, and Tomasso’s internal experiences of all of this. The film becomes even more striking in the fact that Ferrara’s real wife and daughter play their characters, filmed in Ferrara’s and Chiriac’s actual apartment.

The complex character presented as Tommaso has Dafoe at his finest, capturing all the subtleties and self-doubts of Ferrara as he sees himself.  He is a recovering drug addict, religiously attending AA meetings, having a keen interest in those around him, dealing with the most disturbing information he witnesses on one occasion, taking on an overbearing role in his marriage, and still finding the time and wherewithal to deal with a loud drunk out on the street disturbing the neighborhood peace. The latter ends up with a warm chat and a handshake as Tommaso sends the man on his way.

The production clearly fits in the category of an art film in its pace and the inclusion of metaphor and symbolism.  It could be criticized as being a bit too long, but this is a minor criticism. Seldom do we witness such a film with the writer’s openness and keen insight into his own character.  It is helped immeasurably by this and by Dafoe’s, Chiriac’s, and Deedee Ferrara’s perceptive representations.

Final Thought

A moving depiction of the inner and outer experiences of a man and his family.


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