“Cinema is a distraction from reality, which is lousy.”
as quoted in Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God
Celebrated Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino won the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award for his sweeping and sumptuous The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), a movie bold in its depiction of the moral emptiness of current culture. Sorrentino’s other credits include This Must Be the Place, starring Sean Penn and Frances McDormand (2011); Youth with Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda (2015); and The Young Pope and The New Pope, both for HBO.
His current film, The Hand of God (È stata la mano di Dio), is his most personal. At the age of 17, Sorrentino’s parents died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was supposed to be home with them but instead went to a soccer game to see his favorite player, Maradona. In the film, set in Naples in the 1980s, he chronicles his relationship with his parents, brother, bathroom-trapped sister, and a slew of authentic, if slightly off-kilter, family members.
Sorrentino, as with his mentor Fellini, enjoys peppering the dramatic with the surreal. He cast his cinematic younger self perfectly with a fresh new face, Filippo Scotti, who is so genuine and immersive one would think he’s been acting since birth. Scotti previously appeared in an Italian Netflix series called Luna Nera but not much else.
In The Hand of God, Scotti plays Fabietto, a teen who gets along with his parents (Toni Servillo and Teresa Saponangelo). They even have movie night together. Despite their differences, Fabietto also relates well with his older, actor-wannabe brother (Marlon Joubert). The extended family and growing circle are filled with eccentric characters including Fabietto’s bizarre Aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri) who he lusts after as well as a slew of others who help shape who he ultimately becomes.
In looking back, perhaps to heal and exorcise some demons, Sorrentino built The Hand of God to show us that tragic events do not have to destroy but can ultimately galvanize. In it, the filmmaker pays tribute to those he loved and lost and, in doing so, has forever immortalized them on celluloid.
The Hand of God is Italy’s Oscar submission for Best International Feature Film.
Awards Daily recently had a Zoom chat with both Sorrentino and his young star, Scotti.
The Hand of God is currently showing in theaters and will bow on Netflix on December 10th.