Alaska

The electrifying new Italian film Alaska, from writer/director Claudio Cupellini, about two impulsive and idealistic young lovers, should be called Crazy Scary Love. When two ill-tempered people have such a strong and instant connection as Fausto and Nadine, sparks fly and crazy unexpected things happen.

Alaska is an instantly captivating dark and melodramatic love story about two self-destructive personalities; outsiders, loners who latch on to each other for stability and safety. When they are happy they are really happy and when things go wrong they really go bad in a big way. Nothing is done cautiously or in half measure. 

Fausto is an Italian waiter working in a luxury Paris hotel where he meets Nadine, a French girl who is there to audition for a modeling job. The way the two meet sets the restless fitful tone for the rest of the film, throwing them immediately into a whirlwind of events, both high and low, that quickly escalate out of control and instantly bonds them for life. 

Fausto wants to impress Nadine and shows her around the most expensive suite in the hotel by using his position to manipulate the staff. At this point they are both immature innocent dreamers with high hopes for the future but little experience or patience. When the occupant of the suite unexpectedly enters they are caught by surprise and panic when he threatens to call the hotel manager. Events quickly spiral out of control from there with their rash response.

Cupellini’s skillful direction keeps the story coherent and clearly defines the character’s motivations, while creating a perfect balance of realism and melodrama. Everything that happens in this fast-paced roller-coaster ride seems to hide a larger purpose. The couple’s actions are not without serious consequences, but something good comes out of their misfortunes despite their reckless behavior. 

Alaska has been called an epic modern love story. Its scope and authentic international settings across Europe would certainly justify that statement. But what makes Alaska so compelling to watch is the passionate energy and honesty of the two lead actors; Elio Germano (Fausto) and Astrid Burg├ęs-Frisbey (Nadine). 

These two loose cannons follow a difficult journey that is not dissimilar to that of the two volatile lovers at the center of Fatih Akin’s Head-On (2004), the German/Turkish award winning film in which a series of impulsive violent mishaps leads to tragedy and causes the lovers to become separated for an extended period of time, after which the experience changes them and the dynamic of the relationship.

But what really makes this film special is the fateful bigger than life Shakespearean romance at the heart of the film. Fausto and Nadine’s individual journeys, seemingly going in opposite directions with increasing conflicts, result in a confluence of events that brings their relationship full circle. It somehow makes us believe that despite our worst flaws and faced with insurmountable obstacles, even in today’s corrupt cynical power-hungry world, love can prevail.

Alaska is a heartfelt exhilarating experience that will leave you enthralled for days afterward. Currently playing the festival circuit, this Italian/French co-production recently played at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival in Toronto and I believe will connect with a broader audience.

JP

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