It is the story of a narrow-minded young man who lives on a tobacco plantation in the 1990s, where the staff band is still active, and who at some point resurrects from the dead, unchanged, many years later, after the rest of the world has moved on. WTF.
Despite the fact that the description is accurate, it does not do Alice Rohrwacher’s wonderful Italian fable justice. That which is good in a world where feudal slave bonds have been replaced by another evil: betrayed capitalism, is depicted in this beautiful, poetic and strange documentary. A development embodied by Lazzaro, who wanders aimlessly through a world that has no place for someone with his background and outlook.
So it’s not for everyone, is it?
While a certain weakness for European arthouse may be required, if you can open your eyes to cinematic magical realism, you will be treated to an extremely rare experience that is well worth your time. One of the most beautiful scenes of the year occurs when Lazzaro walks down the street while the organ music from a church plays behind him.
“Happy As Lazzaro” plays with the idea and image of a wild and dangerous wolf, which serves as a divine, fairytale-esque metaphor for power, and is elevated by gentle humanist touches and Hélène Louvart’s otherworldly cinematography at every turn. Despite the fact that the film’s final act is a little heavy-handed in its portrayal of Lazzaro’s hasty attempts to put his best foot forward in a world ruled by merciless capitalism, Rohrwacher manages to pack an undeniably poignant punch with the most basic of questions: how far would one be able to get by instincts of basic decency alone in a world defined by helplessness and social injustice? “Happy As Lazzaro” is easily one of the best films of the year, and it is laced with an unapologetically social message. It challenges the viewer to imagine a world in which each individual is challenged to be as selfless and morally whole as the film’s main protagonist, Lazzaro. If only it were that simple.