Another festival, another Rohrwacher shines. Keen eyed viewers might recall that Alice Rohwacher directed what was, in this writer's humble opinion, the best film to screen this year at Cannes. Well now, it seems as we reach the halfway point of Venice 2014 her sister Alba, for now at least, can wear that crown. She stars in Saverio Costanzo's Hungry Hearts; a film of pure teeth-clenching claustrophobia which takes an indie setup about maternal instincts and crudely twists it into homeopathy horror.
We open on a playful first meet. Jude and Mina (Adam Driver and Rohrwachr, both lookin' lovely) find themselves locked into the downstairs toilet of one of New York's Chinese restaurants. Jude apparently having left an awful stink, the pair awkwardly, but tenderly, manage to ride it out. It's the sort of "how did you guys meet?" story any self respecting couple would love to tell. Costanzo presents it beautifully too: Driver goofy and dashing in a fine fitted suit, Rohrwacher's pale complexion and yellow dress complimenting the turquoise wall behind. It all seems so familiar; so tediously perfect; but watch your step, even the prettiest of rugs can be pulled.
Mina discovers she's expecting quite soon after- and shotgun wedding bells promptly follow- but as soon as their son comes into the world their relationship, in turn, unravels. Alienated in the vast metropolis, Mina becomes dangerously obsessed with the health of her child. She delves deeper and deeper into new age parenting techniques, staunchly relying on her maternal instinct, terrified to let her child leave the house. Jude, in turn, becomes marginalized. It's like a contemporary take on Rosemary's Baby which swaps the sex crazed satanists of Polanski's film for the church of avocado worship and granola bars. Of course neither is entirely right, as neither is entirely wrong, so when things eventually do go sour it becomes increasingly difficult to take sides.
Costanzo shoots his indoor scenes in a frightening expressionist manner; using fragmented shards of light and varying lenses to accentuate Mina's deteriorating mind. The colour pallet seems to recall Tarkovsky, indeed friends of Jude at one point even reference Stalker's mythical Zone. Mina seems to think New York to be similar to The Zone- alienating; deceiving; tricks and charlatans at every turn- and that the only way to keep her baby safe is by shielding him in her idealist home.
Rohrwacher's character, early on at least, is the sort of role you might expect Mia Wasikowska or Natalie Portman to play- delicate, ethereal, beautiful and chic- and yet the actress twists it to the point of deformity. Zoe Kazan, with her excellently written Ruby Sparks, did much to lift the middle finger to these supposed stereotypes but Hungry Hearts is a different fish entirely. A Polanskian scaled, fiendish nightmare in the age of the Manic Pixie Dream.