Review of “Vivere”


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

(Hannelore Elsner).

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.

Esther Zimmering

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.

Hannelore Elsner

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.

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