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Aleph Recommends: The Solitude of Prime Numbers (Saverio Costanzo, 2010)


An atmospheric film filled with diverse emotions, connecting us directly with the human maturing process, offering a first-hand account of the daily struggles of the maladjusted.

The mathematical sequence of prime numbers means they never touch. Their nature makes them permanently separated. They can be as close as 11 and 13 but there will always be the 12, which is not a prime number, in between. This is the metaphor that comes from the novel that shares the title of the film: The Solitude of Prime Numbers (Saverio Costanzo, 2010).

The mathematical concept is also used to organize the characters: Alice (Alba Rohrwacher, Martina Albano, Ariana Nastro) and Mattia (Luca Marinelli, Vittorio Lomartire, Tommaso Neri) are each played by three different actors. We see these characters at three different stages of their lives, corresponding to three decades, and which interconnect irrespective of chronological order, justifying this cinematic treatment of experiences as they occur and not as recalled memories.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers achieves a noteworthy emotional continuity and is never unbelievable: the film’s script audaciously makes us jump from one era to another by focusing on what the characters feel over and above the anecdote, and above all irrespective of time. Their pain unites Alice and Mattia, lending that a common status but, as with what occurs to prime numbers, they cannot completely connect.

From the beginning the music, composed by Mike Patton and which recalls the film soundtracks of Giallo, fuses with the pronounced use of the contrast of saturated color, while cinematographer Fabio Cinchetti manipulates the camera to show us a spring festival in some Italian primary school as if it were the haunted house of a fun fair.

Sharing this reality are Mattia and Alice, always accompanying each other from afar and each sharing their pain from their window. The drama appears to focus on Mattia’s conflict, who is never able to escape the guilt for the death of his sister when they were children, even though she attempts to take refuge in mathematics. Mattia, when he was a boy and ashamed of his sister’s mental illness, obliged her to wait for him in a park while he went to a children’s party that lasted for several hours – enough to never see her again.

Few films portray childhood solitude and the difficulty of surviving that phase as this film does. Submerged in the visions of people with whom we can feel much empathy, we move away from the cliché of bullying to enter into the complexities of a human being in their struggle to construct their own personality.

The characters’ relationship with their respective parents marks the two aesthetic ambiences in which the plot unfolds. In particular, the presence of Isabella Rossellini, Mattia’s mother and a woman of intrigue who is that kind of mother who jumps, from one moment to the next, from tenderness to negligence; a power exercised without consideration for the consequences that her acts will have on the future of her son.

The film is well shot, with the camera at the children’s height, and the adults almost always must bend down to enter into shot. The bright colors of childhood become saturated and then more neutral during their youth, before turning to the color of nature, of wood.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a succession of memories by people with fractured souls, an eternal zoom onto painful moments that bring personality to these afflicted souls; a smooth trip to childhood without fairy tales. Realism serves fantasy here, like hidden pools of mirrors of water that foster the viewer’s aesthetic experience and make them aware of their own existence, based on a past and a future that, although they don’t fully exist, give form to their lives.

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