by Roderick Conway Morris

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Miracle in Mafialand

By Roderick Conway Morris
ITALY 2 October 2003


'Il Miracolo' (The Miracle) takes place in the Italian port of Taranto. The town is afflicted by the south's chronic problems of a stagnant economy, unemployment and emigration, its beautiful natural setting marred by its vast steel works, one of the so-called cathedrals in the desert -- ill-conceived and corruption-ridden projects that were ordained by the government in Rome in the 1960's to revive the south, but never delivered the promised jobs or prosperity.

Twelve-year-old Toni (Claudio D'Agostino) is a solitary boy, who takes off on his bike to escape his parents' endless bickering. He is the victim of a hit-and-run accident, and as he loses consciousness, he sees the face of a girl in the car, Cinzia (Stefania Casciaro), peering down at him, seemingly surrounded by an other-worldly nimbus of light.

While recovering in a hospital and wandering the corridors at night, Toni enters a room, where the heart of an unattended patient, according to the cardiogram, has stopped. The boy lays his hand on the man's chest, and his heart starts beating again. Medical staff arrive at the critical moment, and soon word is going around about the boy's 'miraculous' intervention. It is only a matter of time before the sensation-hungry media become involved.

Meanwhile, Cinzia, whose mother has abandoned her as a child, leaving her angry and insecure, surreptitiously visits the hospital to see how Toni is faring. A receptionist becomes suspicious and tips off the police. Cinzia is summoned to police headquarters on a pretext, and Toni, looking from a window, is invited to identify her. He denies that she is the right person. But subsequently he tracks her down, and they begin to see each other.

The society portrayed here is one in which the old Italian extended family has broken down, and the only child has become the norm. Nobody seems to have much fun and individuals take refuge in a kind of corrosive cynicism or a desperate desire to believe in the unexplained and miraculous -- states of mind that can even coexist within the same person.

All looks set to end in tears. But, in what turns out to be a modern parable about the power of love and innate goodness in a world where neither are much in evidence, Winspeare artfully confounds our expectations. D'Agostino, making his acting debut, is engaging as Toni, without being cute. And Casciaro, also making hers, is almost alarmingly credible as the obstreperous, but deeply vulnerable, Cinzia.

First published: International Herald Tribune

© Roderick Conway Morris 1975-2024