Sorry for the long break between reviews, but film #46 in the World War II Marathon hopefully will get the ball rolling, but always remember people, life happens and thus I disappear occasionally!
Written By: Enzo Monteleone
Directed By: Enzo Monteleone
Realism or poetry, El Alamein – La Linea Del Fuoco wants both and ends up never achieving neither. A bold opening statement I know, but I try to remain the dude who doesn’t mince words even though I know I rarely reach that mark. But, my opening statement gets to the very core of El Alamein – La Linea Del Fuoco, a film that is stuck between two worlds and never gains the traction it needs in either of them. In that regard it is trying for some true Italian tenets, the idea that all life is art and art is life. But, some moments are real and the writer and director, Enzo Monteleone, tries for real moments while he still has his poetry book clutched tightly to his chest. The two never mesh together in the aesthetic Monteleone creates, and El Alamein – La Linea Del Fuoco never feels like one whole movie, but rather two halves knocking against one another.
To allow for this world of poetry and realism Monteleone films at a slower pace with a script that allows for extended moments of rumination. I found myself not ruminating in the fashion that Monteloene no doubt intended. I wasn’t thinking about the harshness of war, the bravery of Italian men, the stupidity of those in charge, and so on. Instead my thoughts were drawn to how fake the movie felt because of how out of sync the poetic moments were with the real moments. Whenever an Italian soldier would stop to wax poetic about his lot in life and what the universe holds for him and his comrades, almost always something bad because the universe is out to crush the souls of Italian men, I found myself rolling my eyes because of how wrong that moment felt. El Alamein – La Linea Del Fuoco tried to tow a line, and as a result I was never drawn into its world like I should have been.
A great example of the shortcomings of El Alamein – La Linea Del Fuoco takes place late in its run time, when the soldiers we have been following take shelter in a bunker occupied by higher up officers. This should have been one of the best moments in the film, a moment that relayed the message and vision of Monteleone perfectly, but it fell flat. Instead of being a moment of realism I was waiting for the soldiers to say something poetic, for the officers to give a rousing speech that would fall on deaf ears, and so forth. What the scene amounted to was a hollow moment of soldiers occupying the same space as officers and then one of the officers giving an empty “bring out the war drums” speech. I couldn’t latch onto the realism of the scene or the words uttered, because what had come previously in the film left me stuck in the middle of some weird nether world of poetry and realistic events.
The above being true, El Alamein – La Linea Del Fuoco does have moments of stoic beauty, and as hypocritical as it will sound it does have moments where the poetry and realism ring true. Those moments are not found in the narrative or the storytelling though, they are found in the cinematography and the location shooting. When Monteleone sweeps his camera across the empty plains of Africa, or the camera falls upon a formation of beaten and downtrodden men the film feels real and poetic at the same time. It’s never able to maintain this feeling, the writing and Monteleone’s directorial flare get in the way of that. But, every once in a while the location pushes through the wishy washy nature of the rest of the film and delivers something profound and enthralling.
As we near the end of the World War II Marathon, El Alamein – La Linea Del Fuoco is a film that will go into the “had potential but never realized it” pile. The moments of beauty found in the cinematography and location shooting are not enough to overcome the rest of the faults found within the film. There are better tales of the Italian side of World War II, more honest and poetic tales. If you want some poetry read a book of poetry, if you want realism watch the news (well, that’s probably a lie these days). If you’re looking for a movie that combines the two successfully, look in the opposite direction of El Alamein – La Linea Del Fuoco.