La finestra di fronte

Italy, Portugal, Turkey, UK


Night in Rome. An October evening of a precise year, 1943. A Young Man that works in a bakery shop grabs a Bakery Boy from behind and slashes his throat with a kitchen knife. To defend himself, the victim grabs the aggressor's face and scratches his cheek. Bleeding, the killer runs down the street, evidently looking for something. At a crossroad, not sure of where to go, he pauses a moment, then makes a decision and disappears along the road. But he isn't escaping from anyone. In spite of the deep wound on his face, he must absolutely carry out an important task. A mission.
The wound on the boy's cheek has become a long scar on the features of an Old Man that wanders around the streets of Rome, today.. He crosses a bridge over the Tiber River, looking around as if he doesn't recognize the world surrounding him. He stares at the people who pass by, looking for someone who might help him. Among these, he individuates a young couple: Giovanna and Filippo, nearly 27, fighting.
While heading on, they cross the Old Man, who doesn't hesitate to stop them and ask for help. Giovanna doesn't even listen to him and continues walking straight on, until she notices that Filippo stopped. She turns around and sees Filippo talking to the Old Man, so is forced to head back. Filippo explains to her that the Old Man is lost and can't find his house. He doesn't even know who he is, or his name, and doesn't have his personal documents. He doesn't even know what to do or where to go. Giovanna is the type woman who likes to solve problems on the spot and find quick solutions. So in this case, her reaction would be to leave the man there or find a policeman, but there are none around. Filippo makes a decision: the only thing they can do is take the Old Man to a police station and leave him there. So they walk with the old man towards the car, a second hand economy car, in a rather bad state.
Giovanna gets off at home: she has to bring up all the weekly grocery shopping. She teils Filippo to take the Old Man to the police station. While the car takes off, she interphones Aylin, her loyal friend and colleague, asking to give her a hand to take up the many grocery bags.
Giovanna's great passion is making cakes. Becoming a pastry baker is her hidden dream.
Giovanna is the pull of the family. She makes decisions, takes up the family duties and so the power. And for his convenience, Filippo lets her.
Giovanna is a pretty woman who physically passed the stage of youth.
Filippo, instead, is still a good-looking big boy that bursts with energy and joy. But he's lazy, without ambition or a sense of the future. He lives day alter day cultivating his very materialistic but often impossible small dreams, like buying a new car.
With the children: Giovanna educates, punishes, awards, protects her children, while Filippo limits himself to play with them.
At the beginning, the encounter with the Old Man, another protagonist of our story, seemed to be an eccentric episode destined to end there. Instead, from this encounter, Giovanna and Filippo's life starts changing. Neither of them knows that through the Old Man, the historical memory of passion and the concept of love as madness that changes and carries life away is entering their existence.
When Filippo comes back home, unexpectedly, the Old Man is still with him. He says they went to the police station and he denounced the fact but the police said they'd call him the minute they came up with something. Not feeling up to leaving the man alone, he brought him back home. Giovanna can't believe what she just heard: she has no intention of taking care of the Old Man and she thinks Filippo must be crazy to let a stranger they know nothing about into their house, even for one night only. He could be a killer and murder all of them at night!
When Giovanna wakes up the day alter, surprisingly she finds the Old Man in the kitchen with her daughter. He prepared breakfast for everyone. Silent and kind, the Old Man has an apparently normal behavior but this doesn't release Giovanna from wanting to get rid of him as soon as possible. When she's ready to bring the children to school and go to work, she salutes the man with a "farewell" and gives a unequivocal glance to her husband, unspokenly saying: when-I-get-home-tonight-I-don't-want-to-find-him-here-anymore!
And instead the Old Man is still there, that night. Rushing out to work, Filippo has just enough time to teil his wife that there was an endless line at the police station and that they got tired of waiting.
All alone, Giovanna prepares dinner, while the Old Man takes an everlasting shower. Giovanna goes to see what's going on in the bathroom and discovers that the Old Man slipped while coming out of the tub and is now stuck with one leg in and one out of the tub. Giovanna has to help him out of that dangerous and humiliating position. To make things faster, she ends up washing him. While doing so, she notices that he has deep scars on his chest and asks him what they are but the Old Man doesn't answer. This is a first moment of intimacy between the two, although Giovanna is still defensive.
The first true breach in their relation is broken by the Old Man while he watches Giovanna bake the cakes she usually sells to the pub in town. He observes her with a disapproving expression, maybe because while preparing the baffer she smokes. Suddenly and with competence, the Old Man dares to give her a couple of cooking suggestions. Giovanna doesn't follow them and does things her own way. But she gets curious of his competence on her favorite subject. To bring the baked goods in town, Giovanna is forced to take the Old Man and her kids in the car with her. When she gets there, she leaves them all in the car parked in second row and enters the noisy and crowded pub. Inside, mixed among the crowd, and sitting at a table with a few friends, is Lorenzo(A man that she see every day from her windows).

Giovanna isn't surprised. She knows he hangs out at the pub and actually she considers it a good opportunity to observe him better. While handing over the cakes, she takes a look at Lorenzo, but through a mirror that's behind the counter, not directly. He sees her, too, and seems to recognize her. After a second, it's he who searches for her glance, but she looks in another direction, getting her money and quickly leaving the place, visibly emotional. She doesn't know how to react.
Giovanna tries to talk to the Old Man himself, in a moment he's lucid. But the Old Man obstinately doesn't seem to remember. Giovanna can't find the right way to question him. His silence is intriguing but irritating so she becomes uselessly aggressive. But the Old Man has now started to intrigue her curiosity.
The Old Man is many things: an intruder, a man without memory, a sweet sir who prepares breakfast and plays with the children, the custodian of a love secret full of pain and guilt; the man with many scars on his chest... at times he's only a silent presence, catatonic and restless, other times he's someone who talks to delirium invisible presences. Unexpectedly he reveals himself even a brilliant entertainer full of sense of humor when one Sunday many friends of Giovanna are at her house.
Suddenly, Marilena enters the house. She's the upstairs neighbor and today her violent husband hit her once more. The fact isn't a secret to anyone, so the attention of the women focuses on her. Meanwhile, nobody notices that the Old Man disappeared. The interphone rings. Giovanna answers. From outside of the building a man's voice wams her that the Old Man is in the street and doesn't feel good. Giovanna can't believe it! She leaves her friends with Aylin and rushes down.
In front of the building, a surprise is waiting for her. The voice at the interphone is someone she knows well, Lorenzo. The Old Man stopped him, throwing up all his verbal deliriums. Lorenzo is explaining what happened and it's clear that he believes the Old Man is Giovanna's relative. She immediately makes a point of the situation: the Old Man is a stranger that lost his memory. They brought him to the police and are now waiting they call them back with some information. Lorenzo interrupts her: he can't believe the police left him in their custody. But Giovanna changes subject, evidently embarrassed: she would have imagined anything except for meeting Lorenzo. The chat is interrupted by the Old Man who says he has no intention of going back home. He has to reach a place, perhaps his home, as if he has an appointment he can't miss once more. Uselessly, Giovanna tries to explain that she can't take him anywhere, right now: Filippo is out with the car and she has guests. Lorenzo intervenes: if she agrees, he could take them by car. Actually, he was just going downtown. The Old Man insists, Giovanna hesitates but then gives in. She interphones Aylin upstairs and teils her she'll be away for a while and then ends up sitting in Lorenzo's car, with the Old Man in the rear seat.
Lorenzo is kind, cordial, and most of all he has a prompt and mature way to face situations. The dialogue between him and Giovanna never leaves the subject that made them meet: the Old Man's memory and his mysterious quest. But unlike Filippo and Giovanna herself, Lorenzo seems to have immediately found the right and direct way to talk to the Old Man and find a way through his delirium. He asks precise questions and often receives sensible answers. He's a young rational man, dynamic, and he knows what he wants. Different than Filippo and even better than the fantasies Giovanna had dreamt about. From a few sentences of the Old Man, Lorenzo supposes he's talking about a central area of Rome (Trastevere, Testaccio, or directly the Ghetto) and the three head off.
When they get to the place and out of the car, the Old Man seems to recognize the neighborhood. Suddenly he begins wandering amidst the streets frantically, followed by Giovanna and Lorenzo. It's as if he were smelling a track that brings them to a square... the Old Man looks around, stopping the people who pass by and warning them to hide, that they shouldn't trust anyone, that many of them are traitors and spies. It's as if he were in a far away Italy of many years earlier, among nazis, fascists, and possible victims of a roundup.
To make him calm down, Giovanna convinces him to sit at the table of a bar in the open. The Old Man is coughing and needs to drink something. Giovanna goes in and orders. Lorenzo follows her but she warns him not to leave the Old Man alone. They look out of the bar: the Old Man is practically talking to someone.
That same evening, while Giovanna is feeding her children and the Old Man sits aside, the phone rings. She answers: it's Lorenzo. Instinctively, she leaves her children and goes towards the window: he's there, in his home, phone in his hand. In another room, his wife and son are watching television. Lorenzo tells her how he was stopped by the Old Man in the street, with a true love declaration. He must have confused him for someone else, someone of his past, someone he had a secret love affair with. He repeats the Old Man's love words. And Giovanna recognizes them: they're the same he had pronounced that evening in the car. Without realizing it, Giovanna and Lorenzo start telling each other what the Old Man said and, almost accidentally, use the Old Man's words to communicate something they don't have the courage to teil themselves or each other.
Giovanna and Lorenzo start collaborating to discover who the Old Man is, where he comes from, and what his secret is. A real investigation, practically a detective search, on the man's lost identity. Even if they never say it, their feelings are evident from their glances, their way of communicating and talking to each other, their unperceivable touching, their physical closeness, and their sudden way of moving away when the physical contact becomes compromising. All these things prove that they are falling in love, knowing they shouldn't. The Old Man, his history and his words, become a new alphabet that allows them to learn the language of love again. It's as if the Old Man were the custodian of the secret of passion, the Symbol of a sentimental education that he wants to pass on to the younger generations. It's Love, with a capital "L", the love that breaks through the barriers of rationality and becomes a madness of love. That's why it's destined to change lives, open the eyes of soul, and bring in chaos. And that's why Giovanna and Lorenzo hide behind his Story/History: because they fear any possible change.

Those few magical days that bond Lorenzo and Giovanna in their research have changed their moods and their approach to life, although in an unperceivable way. And others start noticing it, too.
One day Giovanna, who's working, is dazed by the news and naturally also by the fact that Lorenzo asked her to make a difficult choice. When she returns from work, a bitter surprise awaits her. There's a feastly atmosphere at home: to surprise her, Filippo — as a natural consequence to the TV program — brought the Old Man back to the police that brought him to the mental clinic.
The disappearance of the Old Man isn't only an emotional pain for Giovanna but also symbolical. It symbolizes the fact she can't hide her love for Lorenz() behind an alibi anymore, at least to herself.
She and Filippo were requested by tabloids and television to talk about the days spent with the Old Man. Filippo is enthusiastic, it's like a new game for him, but Giovanna opposes herself, refuses the interviews and obligates Filippo to do the same.
To reappropriate her husband or to forget Lorenzo, that night she makes love to Filippo. She starts the lovemaking and does it with anger, as to compromise herself, and attach herself more and more to the life she'd like to leave.
Lorenzo asks to see her. His wife went to Ischia to take a look at their new house and control the new setting. Their son is with his grandparents. The apartment is already upside down for the move. Nobody will be around and Lorenzo asks to see Giovanna there. He wants to make love to her at least once, before making any decision. And Giovanna accepts. The appointment. Giovanna waits until the time is right. She hopes nobody sees her and goes up to Lorenzo's apartment. Everything appears to be very difficult.
Perhaps it's to stop looking around that Giovanna let's Lorenzo embrace her and kiss her and the two start loving each other there, standing. Giovanna feels something new growing inside, she's carried away by a passion she had never fett before. She kisses him, looks at him, kisses him again all over his face, stares at him and says things she perhaps had never told anyone... then she kisses him again and holds him tight. She can't keep her eyes open, the light disturbs her while their cheeks touch.
But it's not the light, it's the reflection of the shades where the light come from... blinds that she wouldn't want to see but that attract her inevitably. When she realizes what it is that disturbs her, Giovanna moves away from Lorenzo and goes towards the blinds.
Lorenzo is behind her. He whispers that he used to look at her from there. When she looks into the shades, for a second he has an intuition and tries to stop her: no, don't look. Too Tate. Giovanna looks out. The windows of her apartment are wide open: Filippo in the house, Filippo in the kitchen, their everyday life. For a moment she even sees herself there, in that apartment. It's something too real: she's spying on her own life, on her own story/history.
Looking into her house from outside, Giovanna realized that her story is in herself and that to follow her passion, as the Old Man told her, she must find continuity in her life. She doesn't need to cut the thread of continuity within herself, falling into the trap of a new couple, because she already has a m6nage. Her problem isn't going away, but using what life offers her in a correct way, starting from what she already built. Following Lorenzo would mean following his dream and not her own, because, after all, although flattened by the everyday life with Filippo, she has and always had a dream of her own. She simply has to pick up the thread of her life that isn't cut, but hidden.
It's moving day. Lorenzo is about to leave forever. He tried to contact her but Giovanna refused to see him. But now she knows that there are trucks loaded with Lorenzo's furniture in the street. Desperately, she tries to keep herself busy at home, but her glance falls out of the window constantly. The facing windows are shut, closed forever, but in the street everything is still open. Filippo wanders around the house. He's noticed she's particularly nervous. But Giovanna makes believe it's the kid's fault and keeps busy with them. Aylin arrives and reminds her she still has a possibility. Aylin, that had always opposed to her adultery, now suggests she goes downstairs, to Lorenzo, and not send him away without a word, as if nothing had ever happened between them. "But nothing ever did happen", Giovanna mumbles. And it's true: only now Giovanna realizes she never made love to Lorenzo. Her betrayal was purely sentimental. While she was loving Lorenzo, she made love to her husband alone and never to her lover. Her transgression was sentimental, a passion of the heart and not of the Body. And she realizes she broke all the rules of love and betrayal, even in this. So then, perhaps, maybe she really loves him. Perhaps she shouldn't let him go. She feels like crying. Her everyday life surrounds her. The first truck leaves, another is about to go; Lorenzo moves towards the car, his wife gets in with their child. A second more and they won't be there anymore. Giovanna takes her coat and scurries down the flight of stairs, opening the building door and appearing in a deserted street. No one's around: that street, so familiar, is now suddenly unknown.
It's a new day when Giovanna enters the mental clinic to see the Old Man. A woman attends her, a cordial doctor. It's evident that Giovanna was awaited by appointment. The doctor brings her to see the Old Man. When he arrived to the clinic he was in a confused state but now he's much better and can receive visits. Briefly, the doctor tells Giovanna the story that she still hadn't figured out regarding the Old Man's past.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Ferzan Ozpetek

Written by: Gianni Romoli, Ferzan Ozpetek

Produced by: Tilde Corsi, Gianni Romoli

Cast: Raoul Bova (Lorenzo), Filippo Nigro (Filippo), Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Giovanna), Massimo Girotti (Davide)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2003