One of the more common
clichés in modern indie film is the multiple story line featuring “strangers
whose lives come together.” Out writer-director Angelina Maccarone
has somehow managed to avoid all of the pitfalls usually associated with this
format with Vivere, a new film
opening in limited release today. Maccarone has delivered an honest, genuinely
interesting film about three women at their own personal crossroads, and makes
a few statements about sexuality, culture and age along the way.
The story line follows
the three women as their lives literally and figuratively collide one night. There’s
the shy, sexually frustrated Francesca (Esther Zimmering); her rebellious 17-year-old
sister, Antonietta (Kim Schnitzer); and a heartbroken older woman, Gerlinde
The events of the film
are portrayed three times (each from the perspective of one of the characters),
with story details falling into place piece by piece. Unique before-and-after
scenes for each character reveal the layers of connections between incidents,
and some events are played out very differently from each point of view. The
approach recalls films such as Memento
and Crash, but with genuinely
compelling, predominantly queer characters.
Set on Christmas Eve in Cologne,
Germany, the film opens on Francesca, a 27-year-old taxi driver tasked with
tracking down her younger sister when the teen tries to run away with her
rocker boyfriend. On her way to extricate Antonietta from a Rotterdam punk
club, she picks up a woman who was left in a car accident (Gerlinde) and takes
her to a hospital. Gerlinde finds her way back to the cab, and the two misfits
journey to Rotterdam
to find Antonietta.
After the initial setup,
we follow each character’s story in turn. The cinematography in each segment subtly
reflects the changes in narrative tone and complements the characters’
personalities. Thankfully, the effect is unobtrusive and adds a subtle layer of
detail to the story.
It also makes for a
fascinating exercise in character study. Francesca is complicated, cynical and
serious, a misfit who would rather chat with women online than go out and meet
someone. Her insecurity is matched only by her sense of guilt and
responsibility for her sister; she has a sort of loner pride that complicates
her relationships. Her sequences are filmed in longer shots, with a distance
between the character and the camera, indicating a sense of alienation.
In contrast, Gerlinde’s
story is told more intimately, with a close-up camera and an eye for her own
point of view. Gerlinde is suffering from the worst kind of heartbreak: Her closeted
lover has refused to see her on Christmas, despite promises otherwise. She
initially finds solace in wine and wistful anecdotes about love, and though her
path is easily the darkest and most dramatic of the trio, she eventually
becomes a guiding light for the other women.
Antonietta is a classic
rebellious teenager, but she has a great deal of heart and strength to balance
her naïveté. When her boyfriend’s stoned bandmates get into a car accident and
leave the victim,
Antonietta tries to get them to contact the authorities, and runs away (again) on principle when they fail to take action. She also adds a bit of youthful optimism and buoyancy to the
film, in comparison to her sister’s cynicism and Gerlinde’s heavy emotional
Maccarone said in her director’s statement that
the characters could represent the same woman at different stages of life. Seen
in this light, Vivere becomes a
commentary on the fluid nature of sexuality across a lifetime, with characters
that literally span the range of the spectrum from gay to straight.