The Shadow of the Day (L’Ombra del Giorno)
Directed by Giuseppe Piccioni
Starring Riccardo Scamarcio, Benedetta Porcaroli, Valeria Bilello, Lino Musella, Vincenzo Nemolato, Antonio Salines, Costantino Seghi, Waël Sersoub
Showing nationally as part of the Italian Film Festival
The Shadow of the Day covers the period of Italian history that includes the May 1938 state visit of Adolf Hitler and the disastrous Italian entry into World War II. The period was one of radicalisation of Italian fascism with increasing oppression of Jews.
That forms the backdrop for a personal story of love and redemption focused on a restauranteur in a provincial town and a woman he hires to work in his establishment. It is a study in miniature of the era’s stifling atmosphere and the costs of personal survival.
The restauranteur, Luciano (Riccardo Scamarcio) is a non-committal member of the Fascist Party and carries a disability from injuries sustained in WWI. While admiring the achievements of fascism, he shields his anti-fascist employees and patrons against thuggish local officials.
The fascists admire him for his war service and patronise his establishment, which he tolerates for his security without being drawn into their mentality.
Anna (Benedetta Porcaroli), the stranger who, upon entering his employment, brings the light of her intelligence and talents to his life, carries a secret. As their relationship deepens Luciano is drawn into questioning the restrained life he has structured for himself.
Like the coils of a boa constrictor tightening, the danger surrounding the characters slowly intensifies as their relationship grows more complex. There is little in the way of onscreen violence, but the apprehension increases the more the viewer is drawn into identifying with the protagonists.
The Shadow of the Day eschews melodrama while it provides is an emotionally forceful and intelligent anti-fascist statement.