VISIONS DU RÉEL: No matter what the subject is, Martina Parenti and Massimo D'Anolfi always have one aim: to drive us beyond the immediate.

Francesca Borri
Francesca Borri
Italian journalist and writer. She contributes regularly to Modern Times Review.
Published date: April 9, 2019

We know little about Martina Parenti and Massimo D’Anolfi, as they are quite private, and seldom speak of themselves. A couple not only behind the camera but also in life, together they have shot seven documentaries: always off the beaten track. They have the gift of untangling complex topics. The Never Ending Factory of the Duomo, for example, is about immortality, as seen through the constant endeavour of maintenance and restoration of works like the Dome of Milan. The Castle, whose title is a cross reference to Kafka, is about contemporary non-places seen through an airport: a space of passage, seemingly, of movement, of freedom, and yet of control and restrictions. Their latest documentary, Blue, is the story of a new metro line – its construction a subterranean job, carried out by the miners of our time. And it soon turns into a much more challenging story about the relationship between manual labour and technology, blood and iron. Day and night.

The marvellous spiral

No matter what the subject is, Parenti and D’Anolfi always have one aim: to drive us beyond the immediate. The poster of their most famous movie, Spira Mirabilis, featured at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, is a cell seen through a microscope – an image beyond reach for human eyes.

Martina Parenti and Massimo D’Anolfi are quite familiar with uneasy choices.

The title is the Latin for «marvellous spiral», and refers to the so-called logarithmic spiral, studied by mathematician Jakob Bernoulli.

Spira Mirabilis, Parenti and D’Anolfi

In Spira Mirabilis, Parenti and D’Anolfi return to the subject of immortality through regeneration, developing their Duomo story. The movie has the same structure of the spiral it is named after: five intertwined stories based on the five elements of the universe. It is a conceptual movie, and in Venice the screening ticket came with a usage guide. The film is about our longing for infinity, about our efforts to overcome our own limits, and the film’s disorientation points at human finiteness.

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