The Italian or Italianetz, is directed by Andrei Kravchuk, and written by Andrei Romanov, is the story of a Russian orphan child who will do anything to find his biological mother, even if it costs him everything. This movie gives Russian film makers a good name!
Kolya Spiridonov plays the brilliant and tenacious Vanya Solntsev. Brought to an orphanage when he was so young he can’t remember his mother, his need to know his biological mother is sparked when another child’s mother returns to collect her child after her child is adopted. Vanya has the rare opportunity to be adopted by a wealthy Italian family but his drive to find his mother consumes him and he decides that he will, at any cost, find her.
His drive to find his mother requires him to learn how to read, learn how to use public transportation, lie, cheat, and keep going even when a child should not.
The other kids in the orphanage range in age from about four to teenaged. The children in the orphanage’s characters are an examination of what happens when parents are replaced with nearly no supervision or love. The teenagers range from hooligans, to prostitutes and caretakers. None of the older children expect to be adopted and have accepted their life inside the institution; making the best of the hopeless life they see in front of themselves. The small children are all desperate to be adopted. They redress themselves when a prospective parent arrives.
Vanya’s potential adoption is brokered by Madam. Madam, played by Mariya Kuznetsova, and her assistant chase Vanya around the countryside to make sure he is adopted by the Italian family and to collect their brokerage fee. She bribes anyone who will accept her money. Her antagonism drives Vanya to desperation and causes some of the most brilliant scenes in the movie.
Kolya Spiridonov is exceptional in this role. This film would fail if Spiridonov couldn’t pull off the emotional diversity necessary. His performance is beautiful, complex, and delicate. His walk, the swing of his arms, his shoulders, and his face all accentuate the mood currently necessary for the plot. I felt like I was running with him, completely emotionally tied to Vanya. Vanya would be a melodramatic unoriginal character if Spiridonov didn’t breathe a spirited life into him. It doesn’t hurt anything that he is cute as a button either.
That isn’t to say you should overlook the supporting cast in this film. The director decided to use truly orphaned children to play the strays. Even though most of the supporting cast isn’t professional actors, the difference is imperceptible.
Denis Moiseenko plays Kolyan, probably one of the most complex characters in the movie. Kolyan is the alpha-dog in a rabble of orphan criminals. All the criminal activities are done under his supervision. Eventually, all the felonious money goes back to him. He then divvies out the money for to make sure the children have what they need. It is obvious, any hope he has died long ago but his compassion isn’t entirely spent. Before giving Vanya a lashing for stealing, he explains his own story to Vanya, encouraging him to forget about his mother entirely. Kolyan is obviously angered that Vanya would squander an opportunity for a family; an opportunity for which Kolyan has long lost hope. Denis Moiseenko gives Kolyan his labyrinthine emotion. Playing a good boy gone bad, gone good again is a double-dog-dare Moiseenko completes spectacularly.
It is much to the credit of Andrei Romanov the characters in this movie are multi-dimensional. With the exception of Madam, every character in the movie has their own finespun story that add to the texture of Vanya’s journey. Romanov’s characters are tragic and uplifting same time. I admired Vanya for making his own opportunities and refusing to have a life with unanswered questions about his mother. It is an opportunity that most orphans don’t or can’t take. I admire Romanov for creating a story that is so incredibly alive.
Visually speaking, this movie is wonderment. The cinematography is first class. There is no scene un-thought out, no angle picked on a whim. The cinematographer, for whom I can’t find a credit, understands the use of light and the value of it to create atmosphere. Every scene is divinely organized.
It is no wonder that someone decided to fly this movie to America. I feel fortunate to have seen this movie and that Vanya shared his journey with me.