If you've seen last year's masterful "Into Great Silence," #2 in my Top 10 Films of 2007, then you've seen a film so vastly superior to Italian director Saverio Costanzo's "In Memory of Me" that I can hardly put words to it.
"Into Great Silence," even with extended moments of complete and utter silence, says far more than Costanza's film can in its overwhelming 120 minute playing time.
Andrea (Christo Jivkov) is a well-to-do man who finds his life meaningless and begins searching for meaning. He is accepted as a novitiate at a Jesuit seminary on the island of San Giorgio opposite the end of Venice's grand canal.
While the production design and the monastery itself are breathtakingly beautiful, "In Memory of Me" is, I have to say it, meaningless.
As Andrea enters this intense period of contemplation where the goal becomes the destruction of self, he begins to observe ever more closely the disturbing world around him within the monastery walls.
There is Faustino, a frustrated novitiate who dwells in the cell next to his and who beats his head into the concrete wall nightly to the point of self injury.
There is the ever doubting Zanna (Filippo Timi), an intriguing sick man in an infirmary and, perhaps most disturbing of all, a father superior (Andre Hennicke) who demands that the novitiates betray one another supposedly as a form of total humility with God and others.
There is scene after scene, much like "Into Great Silence," where little is spoken. However, "Into Great Silence" managed to capture the intimacies, challenges, joys and sorrows of a life of total simplicity and servitude. Costanzo's "In Memory of Me" seems to be questioning the Roman Catholic faith, but does so with such weak conviction that the conflicts lack bite, the moral questioning lacks conviction and the characters themselves are drawn so blandly that it is nearly impossible to care at any point.
I left the screening of "In Memory of Me," in competition during the 2008 Indianapolis International Film Festival, with an audience member who felt quite differently. He stated quite comfortably that while, yes, the film was slow it was true. He stated "I was in a seminary just like that one." All I could do was look at him and shake my head.
Being a seminarian and a minister, "In Memory of Me" was one of my most anticipated films of the 2008 festival and, in fact, was my second choice for The Peaceful Critic's presenting sponsorship.
I shall be grateful that I chose "Munyurangabo," because the only thing peaceful about "In Memory of Me" was the rolling of the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic