However, the romanticism for a pre-consumerist life is far too philosophical to be simple biography. The beehive is a well-worn metaphor for rigid societal structures and, not unlike Victor Erice's Spirit of the Beehive (1973), the film takes place at the intersection of realism and imagination of an adolescent mind trying to make sense of the world. At one point a batch of bees dies due to a chemical product used by a neighbouring farmer who's far more interested in attracting tourists. The farmer's business acumen sees him win 'Countryside Wonders' as it becomes increasingly clear Gelsomina and her family are falling behind the curve, left behind as the world marches forward, bound like ghosts to a land that has lost its relevance. Shot with introspective precision, but filtered through the porous membrane of a dream, the naturalistic camerawork and weather worn colour palette of Hélène Louvart's cinematography beautifully articulates the estrangement Gelsomina's family feels towards the land.
Elements of the family's life are almost as fantastic as the TV show they appear on (itself a vulgar celebration of the region's Etruscan past) with Wolfgang often sleeping outdoors on an uncovered mattress. His purchase of a camel for Gelsomina is just one of the film's opaque side notes that suggests we're being lead by an unreliable narrator. Using Super-16 film stock to capture this dying way of life, The Wonders crackles with the fading whimpers of a bygone age, caught in a distorted memory where myth and tradition have been merged to form a counterfeit image of history. Magic overwhelms everything, even time, with characters inhabiting an ageless dominion that only enhances the theory they're haunting this dilapidated farmhouse. A richly shot and impressively acted portrait of a rapidly disappearing way of life The Wonders is a lyrical work of timeless beauty that exposes the myths behind our collective nostalgia for the past.
Patrick Gamble | @PatrickJGamble