Among the many titles for this year’s Italian Film Festival, A Quiet Life is one of the least appealing. Predictable action movie, I judged after looking at the synopsis and its accompanying screenshot, and crossed it off our itinerary. Maki and I wanted to watch Vincere, but the organizers altered the schedule and replaced that afternoon screening with A Quiet Life. I felt cheated.
Rosario (Toni Servillo) is an Italian ex-gangster who flees to Germany to start a new life. He opens a restaurant, remarries, and has a son with his new wife Renate (Juliane Köhler). Then one day Diego (Marco D’Amore) shows up at his restaurant, upsetting the balance of his life. Faced with his grown son from a previous life, Rosario struggles to again escape his dark past.
I had expected this to be an action film, fast-paced and suspenseful, but it was almost exactly the opposite. The opening captured my attention, and still remains strong in my memory, but after that nothing much happens for the first hour or so. We see tension escalating between Rosario and Diego, but it remains suspended for most of the film. It only picks up again towards the end, when both Rosario’s sons become caught up in danger and the stakes are raised higher.
A Quiet Life is shot entirely in black-and-white, a stylistic choice that somehow works here. The use of contrast—the glaring brightness of white standing out against sharp black—creates a visual rendering in keeping with the film’s heavy plot. Rosario is a man with a long history of sins, a litany of names murdered and erased. He has thrown away the past, but life does not seem too ready to forgive him. Rosario himself doesn’t seem very successful in shrugging off his old identity, for he still deals with problems the same way he did in the past. Perhaps that is why, by the time the movie closes, he ends up doing the exact same thing he did years ago, this time twice beaten by the same fate.
Here’s the uneloquent truth: I can’t really point out what’s wrong with this movie, why for me it seems flat and not striking enough. All I know is that it’s not memorable, I barely enjoyed it, and because of that I delayed reviewing it for as long as I could. I am sure I would have preferred Vincere.
‘She makes me laugh, because I don’t understand her.’
‘I stayed hidden for 15 years, He gave me a new life. You have to ask Him why He’s come to take it back. Ask Him that. I already know why anyway. He doesn’t give a fuck about helping people.’