Two decades after faking his death and disappearing from Naples, onetime hit man Rosario has earned all the rewards of a simple life in rural Germany. He has a lovely young wife, a new son, and a gratifying job as the proprietor of a restaurant and hotel. Then a young Italian man arrives in town on a mysterious mission with his hot-headed buddy in tow. When they're in need of a place to stay, it's not long before they arrive at Rosario's doorstep, and quickly the past comes flooding back.
A richly textured performance from the great Toni Servillo (Il Divo, Gomorrah) anchors this slow-burn dramatic thriller, a brilliant addition to the new school of sophisticated Italian crime films that focus more on character than action. Behind Rosario's mild-mannered façade, glimpses of an ingrained, inescapable violence seep out even before the Napolitani show up. Director Claudio Cupellini—never once resorting to hysterical "mob movie" clichés—orchestrates a subtle, accelerating suspense around Servillo's role as a conflicted family man whose attempts to protect those he loves the most invite only more pain.
Director's Statement Collapse
A Quiet Life speaks the language of feelings. The story focuses on individuals and their daily struggle to survive, to hide, to be killers and scared, vulnerable, tormented human beings at the same time. So, emotionally speaking, the film pivots on the ambiguous feelings that divide and unite a son and his father who abandoned him to save his skin: unresolved love and anger on one side; fear and guilt on the other. Rosario is both, a multiple killer in hiding and a good father, chef and husband at the same time. Diego is a young man, both ruthless and naive, who still hasn't found his place in the world, and torn between a desire to emulate a father he has never really known and the instinctive denial and destruction of any ties.
The story of A Quiet Life therefore does not focus on the Camorra and related events that made news (which happened several years after I got the idea for the film); the noir elements in the plot have the more elevated function of introducing an existential theme typical of the modern novel: the duplicity of human beings. The action takes place in the context of everyday life that is both disarming and absolute. A context I know well because it has been an integral part of my imaginative world since I was a boy. I come from an area that is fairly well known for its spas: sleepy towns that are orderly, silent, peaceful.
While telling Rosario's story I had the feeling that I was back in the places where I grew up, which are perfect for anyone who wants to cancel their mistakes and try to start over, to hide and shake off fear, to create a quiet life and experience it as if the past had never existed. I find the serenity of these small sleepy towns beautiful and touching—even more so if we consider their incredible vulnerability. Everything we see in the film—the restaurant, the chestnut trees, the public swimming pool, the deserted avenues—is designed to end, swept away by the return of a past that had never truly been cancelled, and which we can begin to imagine if we let our gaze travel upwards from the small town and look at the disturbing and awesome nature surrounding it.
Filming in Germany signified all this, but it was also an important step towards constructing stories that are not only Italian, or set in Campania or the Veneto. These are European stories, because in recent years it has become increasingly clear that everything is connected and that the so-called "unity of place" has become an unbearable straitjacket for anyone wishing to recount a story of our time.
This aspect, together with the different languages spoken in the film, from the assistant chef's Italian with a Veneto accent to Rosario's slightly flawed German, Renate's hesitant Italian and the broad dialect of Edoardo and Diego, is also an important expressive resource and actually represents the main theme of the film: Rosario thought he could conceal his past in his new language. That's why he wants to speak it well, without an accent, as if he had always lived in Germany. But the past, like a mother tongue accent, is impossible to erase.
Cast & Credits Collapse
Primary Cast Toni Servillo, Marco D'Amore, Francesco Di Leva, Juliane Köhler, Leonardo Sprengler, Alice Dwyer
Director Claudio Cupellini
Screenwriter Filippo Gravino, Guido Iuculano, Claudio Cupellini
Producer Fabrizio Mosca, Christervon Lindequist, Fabio Conversi
Director of Photography Gergely Pohárnok
Music Teho Teardo
Sound Michael Busch
Set Design Erwin Prib