by thepingofpong

Good intentions, questionable execution


The opening scene of Cento Chiodi (One Hundred Nails) is strongly reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code. A library caretaker’s screams are heard as he calls the police. Inside the library, precious manuscripts have been nailed to the floor using nails not unlike those used for the Crucifixion. Investigations point to a young professor; who flees, fakes a suicide and comes to reside among the rural dwellers living by the River Po. His grouse appears to be mankind has neglected human relationships for the knowledge that comes from books, as he says: “There is more truth in a single caress than in the pages of all these books.”

That first scene is merely a clever decoy for a film that is unabashedly religious: this professor is said to look like Jesus— a  villager asks, “Who took Christ off the cross?”; he recites Biblical passages to the villagers and is eventually looked upon as a saviour when the government, in Fashola style, decides to bulldoze illegal structures.

Almost painfully slow, One Hundred Nails requires the frankly majestic cinematography to keep the audience interested and the script is obviously a little more than a vehicle to drive director Ermanno Olmi’s ideas. Several minutes pass without any action, without dialogue and sometimes even without a character onscreen. Consequently, the film drags but is rescued by the compelling presence of Raz Degan who plays the professor cum Christ-like figure. The rural dwellers are very competently played too and the relationship that develops between the bakery girl and the professor, though apparently platonic (in keeping with the Christian symbolism) is based on genuine chemistry.

The brief arguments are compelling but the overall message is fuzzy. Is Olmi saying Christ will vandalise books to prove a point? Somehow, I do not think so.

If this were a Nigerian film, despite the good intentions, it will not be unimaginable that this will have ‘Blasphemy’ as a label.