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DVD Review – A Magnificent Haunting

3 min read

A mesmerizingly beautiful and poetic film from award winning director Ferzan Özpetek, A Magnificent Haunting is the story of Pietro (Elio Germano) and his new found acquaintances, the Turkish-Italian Apollonio theatre company. The only problem is, is that the Apollonio troupe hold residence in Pietro’s new house and are in fact a band of ghosts who still believe they are in 1943.

magnificenthauntingdvdDetermined to stand by his home and not be deterred by the initially scary spectres – appearing behind his shoulder in mirrors and hiding beneath tables, Pietro initially thinks that his house is the victim of a squatter family or a secret joint residency clause in his contract.

Before long though, he comes to realise that he is in fact sharing his house with a group of ghosts. Despite being scared and often running away it soon becomes clear that they mean no harm and actually become a source of company for the lonely wannabe actor. Their style and attitudes are strongly out-dated, creating a pleasing aesthetic and sense of romanticism as well as a source of comedy.

Although they lend Pietro their support, helping him sort his sticker collection and prepping him for auditions, they have a negative impact on Pietro’s social presentation, causing his cousin (Paola Minaccioni) to believe him mad.

Not minding the opinions of others, Pietro finds himself as the ghosts’ only source of information with regards to the real world and seeks to answer their questions, of the wellbeing of the Turkish-Italian couple’s son, of the fate of one of their members, Livia Morosini (Anna Proclemer)who escaped her demise with them, alongside questions of his own – just how did this theatre group meet their simultaneous death?

As the film continues, Pietro uses the internet to show Yusuf (Clem Yilmaz) and Beatrice (Vittoria Puccini) the pharmaceutical success of their son, and grandson, and visits an underground transvestite sweatshop-come-information centre to uncover the whereabouts of an aged Livia Morosini. Upon finding the old woman and discovering how the actors met their death, trapped in a small room with a faulty fire whilst hiding from the police as a theatre troupe of war-time spies, Pietro also discovers just how their political position was exposed.

The cinematography of A Magnificent Haunting wonderfully captures the romantic imagery of the 1940’s theatre troupe, with each member reflecting a particular persona stereotype that although risks being a little bland, actually works to create a gang of likeable and relatable characters. The acting standard of the entire cast is high and consistent, bringing to life these characters that the audience can easily empathise with and enjoy watching as they strive to put together the befores and afters of their deaths.

There were only two areas of the film that weakened its overall presentation, the first being the inclusion of the transvestite sweatshop, an unnecessary situation and implausible method of communication.  The second, that despite Pietro’s flirting with the troupe’s writer, Luca (Andrea Bosca) their relationship is delicately fleeting and despite undertones of passion amounts to nothing, leaving the audience feeling somewhat unfulfilled.

Indeed there is little focus on romance throughout the film, only featuring the termination of Pietro’s misunderstood relationship with Massimo (Giorgio Marchesi) and his brief flirtatious connections with Luca and a next-door neighbour. But this lack of focal romance works invariably in the film’s favour, as rather than it being an explicitly LGBT centred, it focuses more on the tragic story of the Apollonio company rather than sexuality.

A Magnificent Haunting is a definite recommend to those of you who are after an easy and relatable watch alongside the enjoyable quirks of European cinema.

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