Salvatore Mereu – Bellas mariposas (2012)


Italian writer-director Salvatore Mereu’s drama of Sardinian childhood adapts a short story by local author Sergio Atzeni.

There are films that gently invite the viewer into their world, and there are others which yank us in throat first. Salvatore Mereu’s Bellas Mariposas, a twelve-year-old’s precocious journal of one long summer day in her run-down Sardinian neighborhood, is a fine example of the latter. Writer-director Mereu, ably following up 2008’s well-received Sonetaula with another snapshot of life on his native island, accumulates detail and atmosphere to a claustrophobic degree, audaciously deploying direct-to-camera address to make the viewer more confidant than spectator.

Immersively evocative and grittily atmospheric, this is distinctive auteur fare whose hard-knock verisimilitude recalls more violent recent predecessors like Matteo Garrone’s widely-admired Gomorrah (2008) and Matteo Botrugno & Daniele Coluccini’s lesser-known Et In Terra Pax (2010). Somewhat overlooked when premiering in a Venice sidebar, Mereu’s “free” adaptation of an unfinished tale by influential Sardinian author Sergio Atzeni unfortunately faces an uphill battle to find room even at mainland Italian arthouses. Edgy festivals and those with a particular interest in young people’s issues should nevertheless definitely give it a try. Continue reading