Facing Windows

  Facing Windows
"But where are the petit fours?"

© 2003, Sony Pictures Classics
All Rights Reserved

"La Finestra di fronte" ("Facing Windows" | IMDb listing) is one of Ferzan Ozpetek's best films after "Le Fate Ignoranti" ("His Secret Life"). The story revolves around Giovanna, played with great success by Giovanna Mezzogiorno, and Simone/Davide Veroli, played by the late Massimo Girotti. Giovanna is the mother of two, stuck in an ailing marriage and a dead-end job, whose main pastime is smoking while gazing over to the facing window where Lorenzo (Raoul Bova) lives. Simone, on the other hand is a Holocaust survivor bemused by his memories of a lost lover and the past.

When Giovanna's husband Filippo (Filippo Nigro) brings Simone to their home, the initially annoyed Giovanna begins to establish a bond with the reserved old man and starts to become intrigued by the love affair that he episodically talks about. Simone's presence leads Giovanna to meet with Lorenzo, and she discovers that Lorenzo fixated his gaze on her long ago.

While Giovanna and Lorenzo put together the pieces of Simone's forbidden love affair, they actually realize the love they have for each other. Just as Simone's, their love is forbidden. The double play between Simone's and their affair is portrayed brilliantly. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Lorenzo -- facing Giovanna across the window -- tells her what Simone -- mistaking Lorenzo for his long-lost love -- has said to him. Simone's manifestation of love becomes Lorenzo's, and while Giovanna speaks as though she is oblivious, her eyes reciprocate the passion.

The window frames contain and encompass their love, and only within these frames can it exist harmlessly. Toward the end of the film Giovanna goes across to Lorenzo's apartment and sees her own window for the first time. This is when she realizes that she can only survive in her window even though it is a window filled with obstacles, pain and responsibility. The facing window and the passion it represents are ephemeral; they only exist where she cannot.

Apart from the fantasy love affair, Simone makes Giovanna realize another passion. As a former gourmet pastry chef, Simone tells Giovanna that she should go after her talent and her passion. Although he has failed to go after his love, he urges Giovanna to not let go of hers. Since Giovanna is not gallant enough to go after her fantasy across the window, she instead follows her dream.

Ozpetek uses his camera powerfully to convey intense emotions that permeate the story. The use of recurring close-ups and the contrast of light and dark of these close-ups enhance the heightened emotion between characters. At several instances Lorenzo and Davide's habitually stagnant faces are rendered poignant with the use of shadows and Giovanna's emotion-filled eyes are made even more expressive.

"Facing Windows" is a film that will touch even the most cynical viewer with its passion, and skillfully absorb their emotions for hours.

Filmfodder Grade: B+