Wednesday, March 27, 2013

ND/NF ’13: The Interval

In Naples, the Camorra doesn’t make offers you can’t refuse, they just tell you what to do and you do it.  Therefore, when a hard working but socially awkward teenager is instructed to detain one of his more popular peers for a local crime boss, he reluctantly complies.  The two spend an emotionally taxing day together in Leonardo Di Costanzo’s The Interval (trailer here), which screens as a selection of this year’s New Directors/New Films, co-presented by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Salvatore is a husky kid who dropped out of school to help his father sell Italian ices on the streets of Naples.  Veronica is also fifteen years old, but she dresses like an adult of dubious character.  For reasons she fully understands but is reluctant to share, Veronica has run afoul of Bernardino, the local head of his Camorra clan.  Eventually, Bernardino will arrive to have it out with her, but until then Salvatore is to keep her in an abandoned building near where his father stores their carts.

Essentially, Interval is like the Gomorrah version of The Breakfast Club, with the Camorra filling the role of Assistant Principal Dick Vernon.  At first, Veronica is snobbish and condescendingly, while Salvatore is sullen and resentful.  Yet, they inevitably start to understand and empathize with each other.  Lessons will be learned and bonds will be forged, if perhaps fleetingly.

Filmed almost entirely on location at long deserted mental hospital, Interval has a terrific sense of place.  One could easily imagine an Italian remake of Grave Encounters being shot there.  Ambling through the labyrinthine structure and the surrounding grounds helps pass the time for viewers and characters alike, which is something.  Unfortunately, though they are perhaps only too true to life, Salvatore is so thick-witted and inarticulate, while Veronica is so sexually precocious it is difficult to heavily invest in their fates.

Products of a local youth acting workshop, co-leads Francesca Riso and Alessio Gallo are quite professional and convincing, at least given development of their respective characters.  Still, we have certainly seen their likes before.  Indeed, they are staples of John Hughes films, minus the Camorra connections.

Interval is rather predictable, but for the most part, its execution ranks above average.  Nonetheless, it falls short of the closing profundity it so clearly reaches for.  An okay exercise in Italian Realism (with a strong Neapolitan accent), The Interval screens this Friday (3/29) at the Walter Reade and Sunday (3/31) at MoMA, as part of ND/NF 2013.