Sorrentino’s film “The Hand of God” tells a coming-of-age story that mirrors his own.
It is often said that our childhood experiences shape us into the person we become as adults. Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God” is a prime example of this fact. A modern day “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” this coming-of-age story details a young man’s journey to becoming a filmmaker. Inspired by Sorrentino’s — perhaps most well known for his film “The Great Beauty” — teenage years in Naples, this film exists as a brutally honest depiction of tragedy and loss as it tries to answer the question “how do we move on when our world has been turned upside down?”
“The Hand of God” follows Sorrentino’s counterpart, Fabietto Schisa, a curly-headed and Walkman-wearing teen, as he and his tumultuously eccentric family make their way through life. A sister who never leaves the bathroom, a crass older relation who constantly wears a fur coat while devouring a ball of mozzarella and a mother who loves to play practical jokes — these are just a few examples of the lovably outlandish people who Fabietto calls family. Often exaggerated, these characters are proof that memory does wither with age, leaving us with impressions of what we once lived through; though it’s clear Sorrentino chooses to focus on the abnormalities of each family member, it is never done in bad taste.
After an unexpected tragedy, the life Fabietto has come to love falls apart, leaving him to try and pick up the pieces that haven’t shattered into infinitesimally small shards. One such piece he clings to is the dream of becoming a filmmaker. Fabietto sums it up best when he says, “I want an imaginary life … Reality is lousy. That’s why I want to make films.”
Reminiscent of Federico Fellini’s autobiographical film “Amarcord,” “The Hand of God” ingeniously depicts Sorrentino’s own inspiration from the famous Italian filmmaker. Fellini even makes a brief voice-cameo in the film as Fabietto follows his brother to an acting audition for a new Fellini film. At one moment, the door to the audition room is held open and for a few precious moments Fabietto can see his future — inspiration comes and immediately changes the course of his entire life.
“The Hand of God” is a love letter to Naples and its many beauties. Despite the deafening storm of emotions that this film puts its viewers through, one emotion remains the same — a love for one’s home. The film’s lengthy yet deserving opening sequence is a testament to the love Paolo Sorrentino has for Naples — the town that shaped him into the man and filmmaker he is today.
Even though the film has only recently been released, it received quite the Oscar buzz as it was nominated for Best International Feature Film. In 2014, Sorrentino’s “La Grande Bellezza” or “The Great Beauty” received an Academy Award for the same category. Only time will tell if “The Hand of God” will follow in its footsteps.
“The Hand of God” is now streaming on Netflix.