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Rapito - Marco Bellocchio review from Cannes


By Lopa K


Italian auter Marco Bellocchio takes Cannes Film Festival 2023 by storm with his film Rapito in the main competition. It is based on the real events of the Mortara case where the Jewish boy, Edgardo is taken from his family on orders of the Church after a former employee reveals that she had baptised him secretly. While the political repercussions that reduced the authority of the Church are recorded, Bellocchio decides to focus on the Mortara family affected by the whole ordeal.


Rapito begins with a six-year-old Edgardo living a happy life with his family till one day, on orders of Father Feletti, he is taken from his family over a secret testimony that the boy has been baptised. His father Momolo and mother Marianna are shocked to their core, fighting tooth and nail to delay the 'kidnapping' and doing their best to get him back, once he is given to the Pope. The Jewish community of Bologna too are outraged at the taking of one of theirs, simply based on hearsay and do their best to help the family get back Edgardo. The news reaches far and wide and even to America, Napoleon III and other Catholic communities who start questioning the authority and reprimanding the Pope. While viewers get an insight into the King of Christians, the man who seems infallible, panicking at the backlash, on the other side they also root for little Edgardo trying to do his best to escape in his own warped way while his parents too go against the strongest power of Italy just to reunite with their son.


Emotions constantly run high in the whole duration of Rapito. Barbara Ronchi as the mother Marianna who has nothing else to lose and Paolo Pierobon as the Pope who has everything to lose are a foil to each other, both becoming very different types of parental authorities in Edgardo's life as he struggles to do what he thinks is right. But it is the child actor Enea Sala as little Edgardo who captures hearts with his soulful eyes, who puts on the performance of a lifetime. While the adults are crying and raging, little Edgardo enters a game-like scenario of playing everyone around him and fooling them with the hopes of one day making it back home. It is sad yet amusing to see such a young boy turn sly as he believes that if he fools the Church by being a good Christian, he will be sent home. But as he starts spending more and more time with the Church, viewers start worrying for him -- is he just pretending to pacify the Pope or is he actually starting to believe in Christianity.


Meanwhile, the Papal Church are more interested in having a good image. The Pope doesn't want to give back Edgardo because it'll make him look bad in front of Catholics showcasing the politics even in religion. He spouts the tradition that a pope only answers to his God so there is no fear of public repercussions. But no one believes that including the Pope as the backlash gets worse to the point that Bologna and France attack the Church.


With bittersweet music emphasizing the turmoil of the little boy, his family and the Pope, the tension just keeps rising as viewers try to guess which authority will finally win over Edgardo. Along with the heartwrenching story, one cannot help but find the movie beautiful as the visuals seem straight out of a painting, travelling through canals with contrasting light and shadow play that highlight the beauty of Roman architecture.


However, the conflict in the second act does not have the same impact as the first half of the film. Viewers are stuck with the first one, with little Edgardo, wanting to see it through, to see the transformation of the little boy and who he turns into at the end of Rapito. There are several red herrings as well that almost get annoying. But when we finally reach the ending, it's even better than what one could have imagined. It goes from us predicting a boring, cliched ending to a shocking, jaw dropping experience as the credits start rolling.


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