Whether harmonious or conflictual, traditional or extended, natural or chosen, the family has always been a source of inspiration for cinema. Over the years, the cinema has used all of its genres to analyze, exalt, and criticize; in a word, to bring the basic social nucleus to the center of attention. There is the “black” -or rather very black- comedy in Mario Monicelli’s film Parenti serpenti [Dearest Relatives, Poisonous Relations] (1992) in which brothers and sisters, children, nephews, uncles and brothers-in-law devise a diabolical plan to get rid of their elderly parents in need of care. The cynicism of the Tuscan master responds to the powerful elegy of The Tree of Life (2011), Terrence Malick’s masterpiece which, with the help of stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, attempts to reveal the secrets of the family. After all, the family is the first place where the human being learns the secrets of the world and, in harmony with Creation, receives its blueprint. For Ettore Scola (La Famiglia, [The Family] 1987) the vicissitudes of a Roman bourgeois nucleus, followed over time between births, deaths, marriages and failed love affairs, reflect the entire Italian history. For Gabriele Muccino, however, the ties between relatives are the origin of every conflict, the primary source of unhappiness. This bitter point of view is expressed in films such as Ricordati di me [Remember Me, My Love] (2003) on the failure of a family because of the frustrations, compromises and betrayals, Padri e figlie [Fathers and Daughters] (2015) dedicated to the tangle of feelings that binds a girl to her parents. More recently, there is the recent TV series A casa tutti bene [There’s No Place Like Home] centered on the disintegration of a dynasty of restaurateurs divided by greed, grudges, and atrocious secrets. To redeem the pessimism of the Roman director is Japanese director Hirokazu Kore’eda, who has made family ties the beating heart of his poetic, award-winning films, starting from this conviction, where there is family there is love, in spite of the DNA. In Father and Son (2013) a man learns that his son was switched with another infant at birth and must choose whether to welcome the biological heir or continue to raise the child he believed to be his. In Little Sister (2015) three sisters discover upon their father’s death that they have a half-sister and invite her to live with them; in Family Portrait with a Storm (2016) a broken home ends up putting itself back together; the protagonist of A Family Affair (2018) fathers an abandoned child. In Paolo Genovese’s comedy Una famiglia perfetta [A Perfect Family] (2012), the protagonist entrusts a group of actors with the role of his relatives in order to feel less lonely at Christmas. The cinema reminds us that the family is necessary. Even if this is rather paradoxical.
by Gloria Satta