The films of Italian auteur Alice Rohrwacher build ephemeral worlds defined by Mediterranean heat and lonely souls; worlds that exist away from conventional storylines of good and bad, start and finish, romance and reality. Happy As Lazzaro, the filmmaker’s third feature, feels like a slippery fairytale: a story that has a clear hero and kingdom, but with hidden meanings that distort an audience’s expectations with mercurial beauty.
Proceedings begin on an isolated tobacco farm, in an indiscernible timezone. It’s hot, the work is difficult, anyone can see the farmhands are overworked and underpaid. But symptoms that should suggest revolt instead inject the eponymous protagonist, Lazzaro, with a wholly untouchable joie de vivre that epitomises his mystical goodness. His generosity overflows, no task is ever too troublesome for him. His unfathomable purity pumps life into the arid grounds governed by the farm’s boss, Alfonsina de Luna (referred to as ‘Queen of Cigarettes’) and her son, a Marquis named Tancredi.
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