The review of The properties of metals, debut fiction film by Antonio Bigini distributed in cinemas by Kiné in collaboration with Lo Scrittoio.
The directorial debut of Antonio Bigini takes off from a curious phenomenon that really happened in the 70s. After the television performance of the illusionist Uri Geller, apparently able to bend metals with the power of thought, various cases of “minigeller”, children who had shown similar talents, were recorded in Europe. Between 1975 and 1980, the phenomenon was studied by some university professors who applied the scientific method to detect the extent and veracity of these facts.
And the TV is always on in the house of little Pietro (Martino Zaccara), protagonist of The properties of metals (suggestive and revealing title), distributed in cinemas by Kiné in collaboration with Lo Scrittoio after its debut at the Berlinale 2023. Orphaned of a mother, Pietro lives in a country cottage in the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines together with his father, little brother and maternal grandmother. Despite the economic difficulties of his father, who went into debt to buy a van necessary for his work, Pietro’s life is simple, made up of freedom, household chores and excursions in the woods with friends. Until one day the ability to bend metals that the boy has manifested reaches the ears of an American university professor (David Pasquesi) who decides to take him under his wing to study him and determine if he really possesses paranormal abilities.
A rigorous Bildungsroman
The properties of metals it is a geometric, clean film. To tell the story he has in mind, Antonio Bigini uses a handful of characters and a few essential ingredients. The rural setting allows him to recreate the era in which the story takes place with little effort, focusing above all on period costumes and objects (the black and white TV, the cars, the clothes of the characters) and the limited number of actors avoids the risk of dispersion. Bildungsroman entirely male, in The properties of metals the growth of the protagonist passes through the tender but conflicting relationship with his father and the meeting with the understanding professor who will open new horizons for him.
If the world of Pietro’s father is that of the visible, made up of toil, sacrifice and daily work, thanks to the meeting with the professor Pietro will learn the existence of invisible forces. It’s all about understanding if he’s really capable of governing them. When the professor informs Pietro that, in the event of scientific demonstration of the existence of his powers, the United States will allocate a large sum of money, even the boy’s father begins to take an interest in the matter, encouraging his son who finds himself loaded with responsibility and pressed to publicly demonstrate those skills that he is not sure he possesses.
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Antonio Bigini uses the news story of the minigellers to tell a personal and family story that is close to his heart. The ability to bend metal is just a gimmick, curious for more, than the director to talk about anything else. What for three quarters of the film is presented as the fulcrum of the plot then ends up in the background to make room for the exploration of the emotional dimension of the protagonist. But the decision to abandon the ingredient that creates the tension of the story does not pay off given that the last part of the film is also the least focused, the one in which the directing style is so punctual, which at times seems to contain echoes of Ermanno’s bucolic cinema Olmi or the rigor of Giorgio Rights, seems to fray.
Although not without some uncertainty in the story, The properties of metals is a film that tells childhood and the struggle of growing up with great delicacy. In stark opposition to the prevailing fashion of special effects, Antonio Bigini tries to open a glimpse of other worlds only by using the power of imagination and abstraction. An original premise stimulates the viewer’s curiosity towards a story interpreted with conviction by a confidently directed cast even if the emotional detachment does not favor identification.
Geometric, rigorous and well-acted film The properties of metals, a bildungsroman that takes its cue from the phenomenon that made it into the news of the minigeller in the 1970s. Original point of view for a simple and clean film that frays a bit in the final part. Interesting, but detached.
Because we like it
- The starting point is original.
- Cured the setting and the reconstruction of the time.
- The cast is diligent and dedicated to the story.
- So much curiosity about the phenomenon addressed in the film…
- … which, however, only represents a narrative expedient that is not explored.
- The final part of the film looks more frayed.
- Detachment does not favor the emotional involvement of the viewer.