Edinburgh International Film Festival

La Vita Che Vorrei (The Life I Wish For) (2005)

Starring: Luigi Lo Cascio, Sandra Ceccarelli

Directed by: Giuseppe Piccioni

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Sandra Ceccarelli and Luigi Lo Cascio in La Vita Che Vorrei

Another day, another UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. And this time it's an Italian film (yup, my one token non-horror choice). Like a cross between A Star is Born and The French Lieutenant's Woman, the film tells two parallel stories: that of up and coming actress Laura Conti (Sandra Ceccarelli) and established film star Stefano (Luigi Lo Cascio - the sexy policeman from Occhi di Cristallo) and the characters they play in a romantic period drama called, of course, La Vita Che Vorrei.

Morose, career-driven and self-centred, Stefano at first does not take to the neurotic and inexperienced Laura, but it doesn't take long for these two egocentric people to fall into a passionate relationship, albeit one racked with jealousy and insecurity. Like an Italian Vicki Lester, Laura's career is in the ascendant, and Stefano feels left behind, huffily resenting her sudden meteoric success. Laura, meanwhile, seems prepared to make use of anyone to further her career or make her life easier - is Stefano just the latest in a long line? Hard to tell.

Federico and Eleanora meet in La Vita Che Vorrei

Meanwhile, their on screen alter egos, Federico and Eleanora, are enacting the age old Traviata story, as our hero, ensnared by the dangerous beauty of a courtesan, sets aside wife and children to pursue a romantic idyll, only to find that the reality is rather less enchanting than the dream, and, well, you can probably guess what happens at the end, this being the late 19th century and all, and consumption running rife. Can Stefano and Laura's selfish love affair redeem the painful self-sacrifice of their fictional counterparts? Can they manage to change their situations, to find the life they wish for? Aha, mio caro, you'll have to wait and see.

Beautifully shot and very well scripted, La Vita Che Vorrei offers a fascinating insight into the world behind the camera and the petty distrust and in-fighting that seems inevitably to inhabit it. The transition between present day and 19th century, at times mediated through the camera crew, at others seen directly on screen, is deftly handled, and the echoes between the two symmetrical love stories resonate perfectly: the moment when the two tales collide, as Eleonora chases Stefano's car through the crowded streets of Rome, is just lovely.

At over two hours, the film is perhaps a little long, but ignore your numb backside and just enjoy this absorbing and elegant love story that captures the imagination as well as the heart. Che bello!

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