Italy/France 1998

Reviewed by Chris Wagstaff


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Rome, 25 April 1994: Nanni Moretti watches the national election results on television as media magnate Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing 'Polo' coalition wins the Italian general election overwhelmingly. For the first time in his life, Nanni smokes a joint.

Autumn 1995: Nanni starts making a musical, but abandons it on the first day of filming. Spring 1996: Berlusconi's coalition collapses, at which point Nanni decides it is his responsibility to make a documentary on the upcoming elections. His companion Silvia is expecting a baby.

When Silvia tries to explain what giving birth entails, Nanni is so anxious he keeps changing the subject. When he discusses the documentary with his crew, he's so absorbed with the imminent childbirth he keeps changing the subject. He thinks about the letters he has written and never sent, and goes to Hyde Park Corner in London to shout them out aloud. April 1996: Romano Prodi's 'Ulivo' coalition of parties of the left wins the election. Nanni has an appointment to interview major leftists at their party headquarters, but bunks off to film his son's first hours.

He asks his mother how she could teach in school while breastfeeding him. He films the Northern League's leader Umberto Bossi inaugurating the secessionist state of Padania, wishing he was making his musical. He sits with his son Pietro, tearing off the nude-adorned covers of the news magazine L'Espresso. He takes a crew to Brindisi to film Albanian refugees arriving by boat, a few days after an Italian naval vessel has accidentally rammed another refugee boat, killing many Albanians. On his forty-fourth birthday, Nanni receives a graphic illustration of how his time is running out, and visits the scenes of his childhood. He starts shooting his musical about a Roman pastry cook.


Probably no one has so shuffled the cards in cinema between a 'person' in real life and a 'character' in a film narrative as Nanni Moretti. If there is a choice between, on the one hand 'film', 'narrative' and 'character' and on the other 'cinema', 'real life' and 'person', then Moretti has set himself the goal of vindicating 'cinema' over the crushing commercial presence of 'film', and has acquired the sheer personal authority to achieve that goal.

His first feature film, Io sono un autarchico (1976), was shot in Super 8, and became an astonishing hit. Nearly 20 years later, Caro diario/Dear Diary (1993) won a prize at Cannes, and achieved worldwide distribution. To see Aprile as the enchanting solipsistic self-indulgence of an incorrigible egoist (as many do) is totally to miss the point. He can make successful narrative films with himself as a character when he wants to, and did so with Bianca (1984) and La messa è finita (1985). He is the most important auteur in current Italian cinema.

Moretti's films are comedies, so 'Nanni' in Aprile is also a character who bears the director's name, his anxiety and self-absorption caricatured for comic effect. Indeed, one of the main themes of the film is the opposition between infantilism and adulthood: the birth of a son raises the question for Nanni of when, and even whether, he should become an adult. A friend gives him a tape-measure for his birthday, and shows him how much time he has left (if he plans on living to 80) in terms of length of tape. Nanni decides he will live to 95, putting off adulthood for the time being.

The trauma that his son, Pietro, creates for Nanni becomes projected on to the other main theme of the film: the opposition between the private and the public. Nanni's job is making films, but he cannot choose between the public, responsible, adult documentary on the political state of contemporary Italy, and the private, infantile fantasy of a musical about a Roman pastry cook. Aprile jogs and shuttles between the private sphere of the birth of Pietro and the public sphere of Italian politics and professional film-making in a truly masterful way, with astonishingly subtle and complex editing of the visual image and mixing of the soundtrack. Television images of public life are inserted into scenes of the private and the domestic. There are also fine sequences throughout the film, which offer sheer pleasure: Nanni pasting together his newspaper clippings, the second time with Pietro participating; a silent telephoto sequence of a boatload of Albanian refugees arriving in Brindisi; Umberto Bossi's flotilla cruising along the river Po; and the closing clip from the musical he finally decides to shoot (in which the whole film crew sways to the music of a choreographed dance scene).

The day on which Pietro is born is the day on which, for the first time in Italian history, the parties of the left win an election over the parties of the centre-right. Can Italy too become adult? The answer is no: as with 'Nanni' himself, the pull of infantilism is too great - the episode of Umberto Bossi's declaration of the independence of Padania is filmed with ironical grandeur. Moretti's films are always satirical: they mock Italian society and culture with affectionate exasperation (in Aprile particular butts are Silvio Berlusconi, interviews, the use of naked girls on the cover of the news magazine L'Espresso, and the psychobabble of 'parenting'). On some level, everything is allegorical, because Moretti is fundamentally a didactic moralist, and makes no apologies for being so. He doesn't need to apologise, because he makes it all so funny. The film is a delight to watch (even more so if you know anything about Italy). It is also a cinematic masterpiece.


Angelo Barbagallo
Nanni Moretti
Nanni Moretti
Director of Photography
Giuseppe Lanci
Angelo Nicolini
Art Director
Marta Maffucci
©Sacher Film/BAC Films
Production Companies
BAC Films/Sacher Film present a Sacher Film (Rome)/BAC Films (Paris) co-production with the participation of RAI and Canal +
Production Managers
Nicola Giuliano
Luigi Lagrasta
Unit Managers
Fabrizio Amato
Bruno Memoli
Assistant Directors
Andrea Molaioli
Alessandro Angelini
Script Supervisor
Valia Santella
Camera Operators
Franco Bruni
Fabrizio Vicari
Roberto Cimatti
Costume Designer
Valentina Taviani
Maura Zuccherofino
Gianfranco Mecacci
Marcello Meniconi
Gino Tamagnini
Michele Vigliotta
Studio A.M.
"Ombre", "Canzone popolare", "Le onde" by/performed by Ludovico Einaudi; "Campanitas de cristal" by Rafael Hernández, performed by Noro Morales e la sua orchestra; "Jaad e nabi gulsham" by/performed by N. Fateh Ali Khan; "Ragazzo fortunato" by Jovanotti, Centonze, Jovanotti, performed by Jovanotti; "Why Wait", "Mambo jambo" by Perez Prado, performed by Perez Prado e la sua orchestra; "Cachita" by Rafael Hernández, performed by René Grand; "Hata" by M. Kongo, R. De Rosa, performed by Hata; "Bo mambo", "Gopher" by Moises Vivanco, performed by Yma Sumac
Gianni Santucci
Sound Recording
Alessandro Zanon
Danilo Moroni
Sound Editor
Filippo Bussi
Nanni Moretti
Silvio Orlando
Silvia Nono
Pietro Moretti
Agata Apicella Moretti
Nuria Schoenberg
Silvia Bonucci
Quentin de Fouchecour
Renato De Maria
Claudio Francia
Jacopo Francia
Matilde Francia
Daniele Luchetti
Giovanna Nicolai
Nicola Piepoli
Corrado Stajano
Giuseppe Baresi
Piero Colasanti
Gino Landi
Alessandro Pesci
and some of the film's crew
Metro Tartan Distributors
tbc feet
tbc minutes
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011