The Critical Reception of ‘La Bestia Nel Cuore’ Abroad
La bestia nel cuore first premiered during the Venice Film Festival, in 2005 and, expectations were high among Italian critics, in view of the director herself but also due to the negative performances of other Italian movies presented.
Even though the movie is a book adaptation, written by Cristina Comencini herself, no critics have made any comparisons between the products. In Italy, attention focused on the director’s capacity to tell a story of domestic violence, without being stuck in a nauseating and pitiful rhetoric.
In France the critics were not indulgent with the film nor the director. What seems to be the fil rouge of the reviews is that a potentially good story and socially interesting subject is told in a heavy, boring and “not authorial” way.
In Télérama, Pierre Murat gave the film an average mark, defining it “a strange movie, quite brave and, unfortunately, long”. In Prémiere, Olivier de Bruyn simply describes the movie as “a psychodrama where adultery and incest pass through the mincer of a silly scenario and direction” . In Cahiers du Cinéma, Eugenio Renzi’s view of the movie is that everything is told in the first five minutes, where the spectator receives all the clues to understand La bestia del cuore.
On Le Monde the author describes the movie as “such a dense work, with such an insignificant psychology that the spectator cannot give the subject the attention it deserves”.
One of the few reviews to “save” Comencini’s film comes from Grégory Valens in Positif, thanks to the role of the brother: “Sabina’s existential turbulences are long to undercover. Luckily the movie takes an unexpected way in the middle with the introduction of the brother”.
American critics appear divided in two in their analysis of Cristina Comencini’s film. On the one hand, some appreciate the plot of this story of domestic violence and secrets; on the other, there is an aesthetic-narrative criticism about how the story is told. Undoubtedly, its submission for the foreign-language Oscar gave the movie a kind of interest that it would otherwise never have found.
Claudia Puig’s opinion in USA Today is very straightforward: “It’s as if the film is trying to be a light ensemble drama and a deathly serious tale of repressed childhood trauma as well as a commentary on lust. These disparate elements ultimately feel jarring, as if this were several separate films trying to meld into one”
Deborah Young in Variety has a more positive opinion: “The lifelong shame and trauma experienced by the victims of childhood incest are grippingly dramatized by Cristina Comencini, consummate mistress of Italian family drama, in Don’t Tell, probably her most successful film”. Another positive review comes from Ray Bennett on The Hollywood Reporter: “Powerfully moving but laced with incisive wit, Don’t tell has terrific performances with a wise tone and polished look”.
The most common criticism of the movie regards its aesthetic-narrative aspect. The scenario and the quality of the writing reveal a lack of suspense that fail to explain its nomination to the Oscar, according to Stephen Holden in The New York Times. “As promising as its premise may sound”, he writes”, the movie never pulls itself out of the bathtub, and eventually the suds melt into an oily scum”. “What little suspense it generates is soon dissipated. By the time, Sabina squeezes the last details of childhood horrors from Daniele, there are no major secrets left to expose, although the movie foolishly pretends otherwise. Don’t Tell, which was unaccountably nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film, is no better than a second-tier candidate for the Lifetime Channel”.