Gospel according to Mary with Benedetta Porcaroli and Alessandro Gassmann. The review

Poetry and prose dance in Gospel according to Mary, the Sky Original film presented out of competition at the 41st edition of the Torino Film Festival and soon to be released in cinemas. A project that comes from far away like the light of the stars. In fact, it should have been the first feature film directed by Paolo Zucca, after the dazzling short film The referee dated 2009. And perhaps it was a good thing to wait all these years. Similarly to certain extremely valuable reds, subjected to complex procedures before being bottled, the film adaptation of Barbara Alberti’s novel of the same name published in 1979 took time.

A story of love and freedom

The final result is a work imbued with wonderful simplicity, with frugal richness. A work aware of the operation carried out by Pasolini with the gospel according to Matthew, and at the same time innovative in its staging and bearer of a contemporary sensitivity. Between references to Enki and Enlil, gods of Mesopotamian mythology, a courageous film that speaks to us through very powerful images of free will, knowledge, freedom, patriarchy, but above all love. To quote the first letter of the apostle and evangelist John “Let us love one another, because love comes from God; and those who love others demonstrate that they are born of God and know him. However, those who do not love others do not know God, because God is love.”

Gospel according to Mary, the plot of the movie

In Gospel according to Mary, the future mother of Jesus has many points of contact with David, the boy who defeated Goliath. It is no coincidence that the film opens with the protagonist holding a slingshot in her hand. Strong-willed, rebellious, hungry for knowledge, the young woman shuns arranged marriages and desires independence, self-determination, convinced that the real sin is ignorance, as can be seen from her words: “I believe that before facing the world every girl should live with an old giant who respects her dream, teaches the Greek language and the principle of the sundial. The teacher is preparing me for departure, he is teaching me to read and write, to fish, to cultivate the field, to defend myself with a stick and, if necessary, to pass myself off as Greek or Syrian. Of course, it’s not all easy.”

Her dream seems to be transformed into reality thanks to the meeting with Giuseppe, a teacher and accomplice who secretly instructs her and prepares her for escape. But that chaste marriage, that sort of screen, is set alight by the fire of passion. Mary and Joseph fall in love and are ready to abandon themselves to desire. Except that the sudden appearance of the angel of the annunciation shocks the couple. God’s plan does not coincide with Mary’s.

Benedetta Porcaroli and Alessandro Gassmann, a cast in a state of grace

“Then it was forgotten by men that all deities dwell in the heart of man.” Barbara Alberti’s novel reports these verses by William Blake in exergue and Paolo Zucca’s film perfectly transfigures the concept expressed by the British poet. And Benedetta Porcaroli is extraordinary in playing a girl who would like to know how to read and write in a world where she prefers to “teach a mule rather than a woman”. Alessandro Gassmann’s performance was also notable and measured. The actor made his debut on the small screen in 1988 in the miniseries A little boy named Jesuswhere he played Christ as an adult, and having played the role of Saint Joseph in the fiction The Holy Family, returns to lend his face to Maria’s husband. But this time the representation is not that of a saint, but of a very cultured human being overwhelmed by a feeling he has never experienced. Ultimately, the Gospel of Mary is the encounter between two solitudes. A love story characterized by the fragility and asymmetry of two souls so close and so far away. Also in the cast are Fortunato Cerlino, a pompous priest, and Maurizio Lombardi, a mad Herod guilty of the murder of his wife Marianna and devoured by his own inner demons.

“Because love is as strong as death”

The stupendous sequence in which time crystallizes to sanction the Immaculate Conception would be enough to understand how muchor Gospel according to Mary is light years away from certain holographic cinematographic and television representations and restores all the complexity and mystery inherent in the sacred writings. The choice not to slavishly reproduce the Galilee of 2000 years ago but to set the story in Sardinia proves more successful than ever. The island is a sort of added character, alive and breathing. A counterpoint that participates in and underlines the events of the two protagonists, thanks also to an idiom that represents a real language. And one remains enchanted when contemplating the very long shot with which the film ends, while Maria recites words that are poetry, grace and revolution: “Who is she who comes up from the desert next to her beloved? Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm. Great waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers overwhelm it. Because love is as strong as death.”