Respiro (2002)

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Released 17-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer-The Best Man's Wedding, My Wife Is An Actress, Time Out
Trailer-Read My Lips
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 91:10 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Emanuele Crialese

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Valeria Golino
Vincenzo Amato
Francesco Casisa
Veronica D'Agostino
Filippo Pucillo
Muzzi Loffredo
Elio Germano
Avy Marciano
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music John Surman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In an interview about his second feature film, Respiro, director Emanuele Crialese explained its principal theme as the creation of black sheep. Black sheep prove our social superiority and become the sacrificial lambs for our communal guilt. The tiny fishing island of Lampedusa, far from the coast of Sicily, is home to a tiny community of rustic, hard-working villagers. The children run feral among the caves and crags of the coast, and life is hard and unimaginative. A leader amongst the child gangs is Pasquale (Francesco Casisa), whose brutality towards his rivals is almost unmeasurable. It seems as if the adults of the village sanction this feral behaviour, perhaps as a precursor to the adults it's presumed they'll become. His younger brother, Filippo (Filippo Pucillo), is showing all the signs of becoming an intolerable boorish misogynist like the majority of males in his community, and his sister Marinella (Veronica D'Agostino) is desperate to find some love to call her own.

    With the added stern parenting from his fisherman father, Pietro (Vincenzo Amato), about the only mitigation from this harsh life comes from the intense relationship he shares with his mother, Grazia (Valeria Golino). Grazia is an unusual woman, regarded with deep suspicion by the other villagers. In their estimation, when she's happy, she's too happy, and when she's sad, she's too sad. Certainly, her relationship with her children borders on the disturbing, as she draws them into her world with a disconcerting intensity and passion.

    Life on Lampedusa is hard, gritty and grotty. There is little glamour to be found amongst the fishing boats, the processing factories and the tired streets that make up their home. For Grazia, who is an elemental woman, the repressions and dour expectations of the villagers is beyond her level of tolerance. She is a responsive, almost childlike individual who operates from instinct and first response. The villagers treat her with the deepest of suspicion and effectively choose to blame her for all their misfortunes. They see her as wilful, immoral, unhinged, and possible even the harbinger of doom. With their peculiar blend of prosaicness and superstition, all their most ominous of fears are rested upon her head. Finally, when her dog is brutally taken away to be killed, Grazia inflicts her revenge on the villagers in a desperate act of "liberty". Taking this as the last straw, they compel Pietro to send her to far-away Milan to be "cured." Seeing that her situation is desperate, she inveigles Pasquale to help her in a plan to "escape." His solution to her plight has repercussions for the entire village and no one will ever quite be the same again.

    This film works on two levels, both as a realistic story and as an allegorical or mythical tale. Grazia has an almost Ophelia-like quality, and the film explores the themes of what madness really is, what redemption really means, and how to live authentically amidst the expectations of others. As a study of childhood, it is absolutely fascinating - the portrayal of the feral gangs of kids is almost brutally realistic, an interesting contrast to the image of renegade childhood in François Truffaut's film, Les Mistons. Pasquale is a child capable of both intense cruelty and deep compassion, and we see how the events portrayed will form the foundations for the kind of adult he will become.

    The themes of redemption, sacrifice and baptisms of purity are beautifully unfurled without any heavy-handedness at all. The cinematography is nothing short of exquisite with some wonderful images that remain long after the credits have faded to black. Beautifully filmed, delicately handled and stunningly acted, this is a little modern myth that has staying power in the heart and the mind. Excellent viewing.

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Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.

     This transfer is absolutely superb with a crisp, sharp and rich finish. The luminance is absolutely spot on with no low level noise or motion blur to mar the viewing experience. Detail is superb both in the highlights and the shadows, and it is extremely pleasing to the eye.

     There is a deliberately washed out quality to the colours, reflecting a sense of overexposure to the sun. The skin tones, however, are absolutely spot on, and all the colours hold perfectly. The palette is perfectly balanced to the atmosphere of the film.

     There are very few MPEG or film artefacts to contend with. Occasionally, there is some very minor aliasing, but never to the point of distraction, and it is mostly free of any transfer artefacts.

     Subtitles are easy to understand, though at times a little difficult to read against the sandy and rocky backgrounds of the scene. They can be switched off if not required.

     This disc is single sided and single layered, with no layer change with which to contend.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are two audio tracks available, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 and Italian Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the 5.1 version which provided a very subtle but detectable surround experience.

     The dialogue was clear and well modulated. There were no problems with audio sync.

     Music was a particular treat in this production, with the talents of John Surman put to very good use. Lilting oboe refrains percolated their way through the action, either as portents of danger, or as a counterpoint to the heartbreak or anger up on the screen. The music is appropriate, lyrical and haunting in the extreme.

     The surround channels were present, though subtle and there was little subwoofer activity in the film, but there was never a time when I wished for more sound than what I received.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     The menu was static with theme music in the background. It is very easy to navigate.

Theatrical Trailer (1:32)     

Photo Gallery

     8 photographs shot from the movie itself.

Valeria Golino Filmography

     A two page list of this wonderful actress' accomplishments.

Vincenzo Amato Filmography

     A one page list.

Emanuele Crialese Filmography

     A one page list.

More From World Cinema Collection.

     Trailers for:

The Best Man's Wedding (1:07)
Time Out (1:21)
My Wife Is An Actress (1:21)
Read My Lips (1:38)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There appears to be no difference in extras offered between the two regions. If you're in an R4 region, then R4's the winner.


     Respiro -It. "to breathe." Grazia's suffocation on this island paradise is palpable and heartbreaking. Her Persephonous journey gives all the villagers an alternative means of looking at life, and gives us pause to think about how our mindless judgements can make life hell. It is a simple little tale told without fuss or fanfare, but I really enjoyed it and look forward to revisiting it a few times to relive the journey.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Monday, February 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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