by Mark Wilshin
Following a farming family living on the brink of bankruptcy, Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders is a social realist study of life on the brink and of father-daughter relationships. Speaking a Swiss-infused mix of Italian, French and German, Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck) is a driven, despotic father – whose word is final, scolding his children for not changing the bucket on the honey centrifuge, or barking at the hunters that shoot game on his land. But eldest daughter Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu) has a way in – the only one of four daughters with the strength and desire to help her father. It’s a utilitarian kind of love, which – once she betrays his godlike Word by entering their honey-producing farm into the Countryside Wonders contest – evaporates, as their adopted delinquent brother-on-parole Martin steps up into his affections, and Gelsomina is left begging for a task and some kind of usefulness in his eyes. But with its girlhood dreams of escape (into filmmaking as Gelsomina directs her younger sister in a light shaft in a barn), and with its final scene of derelict abandonment, The Wonders is like a tombstone erected in honour of a way of life that’s disappeared forever.
The Wonders is showing on Oct 13th & 15th at the 58th BFI London Film Festival