‘Siccità’ review: Paolo Virzì’s Italian apocalyptic satire sinks its teeth into the pandemic, climate change but bites off more than it can chew [C] | Venice
It’s immediately visible that Siccità, or Dry, is setting a grand stage for an incisive comment on the dire nature the world is in. After having endured a pandemic for over two years, reality has seeped its way into Paolo Virzì and Paolo Giordano’s story detailing how a year long Roman drought has interwoven a web of lives. The tragic conditions of an only slightly more grim Earth than that of today are slowly introduced: there hasn’t been rain for over a year, the public water supply is about to go dry in less than two weeks, roaches have infested the city, and a dizzying sickness has begun to take over hospital ICUs, consuming lives. The two defining qualities behind the crux of the film – the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis – allowed Virzì to create an endless number of social and political comments throughout the film.
Siccità premiered in the Out of Competition selection at this year’s Venice Film Festival but this is not Virzì’s first trip down the Palazzo red carpet. He won the Silver Lion in 1997 for Ovosodo, his latest film, The Leisure Seeker with Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, competed In Competition in 2017, and he was a member of the jury in 2019. He has assembled an all-star Italian cast, with Monica Bellucci among top billing and whose characters provide for a Crash or Magnolia-like narrative of guilt, deceit, greed, survival, and forgiveness. The other characters, ranging from an inmate who unexpectedly finds his way outside the prison gates after 25 years to a rideshare driver who starts to hallucinate passengers and a climate expert who is thrust into stardom after a successful television appearance.
Virzì is no stranger to this type of film structure. His previous film, Human Capital, also overlaps an intricate drama with two families that are suddenly entwined, leading to damaging consequences. The characters here account for varying social statuses, allowing Virzì to once again comment on capitalism, hypocritical and elitist government power, and how the working class has to adapt in an increasingly technological world calling for desperate measures. It may ring a bell that these themes overlap with many of Bong Joon-ho’s filmography, and that’s no mistake. Virzì’s appreciation of the fellow Jury member (and President) resonated with him so much that he added a nod to the director, naming one of the rideshare passengers after him.
Unfortunately, the film suffers in multiple ways, mostly in biting off more than it can chew. What sounds like a complex, profound narrative ends up taking too long to resolve. It has an overwhelming number of dialogues commenting on modern day social media, cancel culture, ride sharing apps, religion, government overreach, overconsumption, climate change, and more. Consequently, in creating so many characters, you are still left connecting the dots between all of the characters after its two-hour runtime, wondering if everything actually was resolved or not. You’re left with more questions than you began with and the conclusions that are made don’t feel that satisfying.
The pandemic mania alerts viewers to possible infection transmission akin to Contagion as the sick directly contact others in the web of characters. However, the disease is partly a red herring in a conclusion that seems to come and go all too quickly. In waiting for a rousing moment as loud as the final concerto piece, you are left hanging for more, realizing the threads that bind them function just as a means instead of playing a part in the end.
This review is from the 2022 Venice Film Festival.