Facing Windows (2003)

 “Don’t be content to merely survive.”

Young Italian couple Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and Filippo (Filippo Nigro) find a well-dressed elderly man wandering in the street. Giovanna wants to leave the stranger, but Filippo insists on taking him back to their flat. The plan is to take the old man to the police station. There’s no missing persons report on file, so the old man stays with the young family. The old man says his name is Simone, and a concentration camp tattoo on his left forearm reveals some clues to his tragic past. Simone’s presence brings long simmering resentments to a boiling point. Giovanna sees Filippo’s failure to dump Simone at the police station as just another one of his long list of failures. But when Lorenzo (Raoul Bova), a handsome neighbor begins to help, Giovanna’s interest in Simone’s past suddenly increases.

facing-windowsFacing Windows weaves flashbacks from Simone’s past into Giovanna’s efforts to track down the truth. At the beginning of the film, Giovanna is too angry and punchy to stop and pay attention to any one else’s problems. She’s locked into an unsatisfying marriage with a husband who’s a disappointment. She longs to be a pastry chef, but instead she’s shelved that idea for a more practical career–she’s an accountant at a chicken packing plant. Lorenzo represents not only what she’s missed, but also what she could have, and it soon becomes apparent that Giovanna is facing some difficult choices.

Giovanna’s window faces Lorenzo’s flat, so they can stare at each other from their respective windows. But that’s just a literal translation of the title, and the film is much deeper and richer than that. Facing Windows is about facing one’s past, and also facing the future. Simone’s tragic past left him with a few treasured memories, and some unique ideas about the beauty of preserving love over time. Giovanna’s chance meeting with the old man forces her to reexamine her life in a new light.

Facing Windows is an amazing film. I tend to find Italian film too sentimental for my tastes a great deal of the time, but Facing Windows is the perfect balance of nostalgia, hope, regret and loss. This is a beautiful film from one of my favourite directors, Turkish Ferzan Ozpetek.

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