Soderbergh’s recent interpretation of Raiders of the Lost Ark as a black-and-white silent film has critics pondering the essence of cinema: “moving images.” I was reminded of such power watching South is Nothing. Fabio Mollo’s feature-length debut focuses on a father (Vinicio Marchioni) and daughter Grazia (Miriam Karlkvist, playing a convincingly-boyish tomboy) coping with the death of an older son and mafia pressure to close their ailing fish shop. It’s less interesting for its story – which drifts without surprises or much of a conclusion – than how it is told.
South is Nothing is consumed by nothingness. It opens in silence, communicating more with the absence of speech than with conversation. Apart from bursts of energy – a brief dance, Grazia crying out “I’m not keeping quiet anymore!” – there’s an enduring, muted sensibility that encourages you to look, and contemplate. It rewards contemplation with a gentle beauty, like a sea beneath a cool winter sun.
Mollo probes the vacuum left by an absent son with an off-kilter spirituality, and evokes the ubiquitous influence of the mafia with the tenseness around Marchioni’s eyes, rather than gunfire and explosions. It’s a simple film, but one that effectively exploits the simplicity of the moving image.