“Padre”: Film Review

Giada Colagrande’s latest film explores love after loss, in a richly musical and luminous story.

A rich soundtrack runs across Colagrande’s new film Padre, a meditative journey about loss and acceptance. It’s an intriguing story, esoteric, haunted by ghosts, and quietly suspenseful. It presents a mystery, a search. By the very end of the film, all becomes clear, in a quietly powerful and enlightening scene.

A young woman loses her father. The film opens with a wake, a quiet party with family friends in the home she had shared with him. She asks a family friend, a doctor, about her father’s death.  What did he die of? She is told, with kindness, that he had died of nothing. When the family friends depart that night, leaving her in the flat, she realises she is not alone. There is something strange and unknown around her.

Music and experimental film are the wellspring here, in a work that Colagrande made on a low-budget with the help of friends and of her husband, Willem Dafoe. Real life and dreamworlds merge. The much-loved composer Franco Battiato, a personal friend, appears her as her father. The conceptual artist Marina Abramovic, another friend and collaborator, makes a cameo appearance by way of long-distance video conversations, as her mother. Colagrande has described how the idea for Padre, and many of its scenes, emerged from a series of consecutive dreams over many nights.

It’s an entrancing story, with a rhythm of its own, a sense of time that is evoked by the artist Maya Deren whose voice is heard in the film alongside footage of her work. The influence of experimental film and video add a layer of meaning and emotion to Padre. An extract of a Bill Viola work adds poignancy and is a homage, too, to an artist known as an early inspiration in Colagrande’s career as filmmaker and artist.  Tommaso Borgstrom’s cinematography, with its nuances of light and grain, adds warmth and intimacy to the story. There is a melancholy note in seeing this film, as he died soon after its completion.

Padre is a reflection on how to live after the loss of loved ones but it is also, in some ways, a detective story. There is a mystery, a search, there are clues and twists and turns.  It is not a wholly interior journey. More than anything, it faces outwards, towards other people, towards hope and love.

The story culminates in a quietly luminous scene that turns out to be a revelation, almost a surprise.  It leads to a new understanding of the finality of a life, that it might not be so final after all, that the space one leaves behind, as one moves forward – as Dafoe says in one scene – is just as important as the space one moves on to occupy. That love is enduring, eternal.

Director Giada Colagrande.
DoP Tommaso Borgstrom
With Giada Colagrande, Franco Battiato, Willem Dafoe and Marina Abramovic.