Not just a sunny coming-of-age movie, “The Macaluso Sisters” opens with a happy day filled with young love and longing by the beach that is tragically shattered by an accident that has everlasting reverberations.
Italian filmmaker Emma Dante, best known as an avant-garde theater and opera director, adapted the film after her acclaimed play of the same name. Here she imagines the ripple effects of a sister’s death through the generations with metaphysical grace and hints of whimsy, moving away from the plot-based mold of most human dramas towards something more haunting and powerful.
Five orphan sisters – Katia, Lia, Pinuccia, Maria and Antonella – live alone in a bustling apartment in Palermo, Sicily, where they support each other by loaning pigeons for ceremonies and events. On their day off, they head for the beach, crossing a field dotted with huge dinosaur figurines and initiating a pop musical dance party upon their arrival. These magical moments are anchored in the tactile photography of cinematographer Gherardo Gossi, which accentuates the youthful vitality of the sisters’ bodies and the playful chaos of their movements.
After the death of a sister, Dante moves on to a future in which the group – now played by a different group of actresses – are middle-aged and broken up, each in their own way. They stay in the same apartment, while the ghostly manifestations of their missing sister create a stark contrast between their aging bodies and those of their overflowing young selves.
A third act shows three elderly sisters in mourning. However, the apartment and its white wardrobe – decorated with an engraving of a beach – look alike. In the end, Dante stages a transcendent confrontation with the impermanence of the body, destined to degrade, but sustained by the memories and relationships that have come to define it.
The Macaluso sisters
Unclassified. In Italian, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 29 minutes. In theaters.