This film tells about an obsessive art expert and auctioneer who is reluctant to engage with others. Virgil Oldman, the accomplished art connoisseur is a solitary, cultured man who has never been close to another person all his life, especially women. His complex personality is only matched by the peculiar illness of the mysterious woman he meets next.
Written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (who received an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for his 1988 film Nuovo Cinema Paradiso), this film can be explained as a film about art, seen as the sublimation of love, but also as a film about love, seen as the product of art. It is a love story that fallows the thriller weaving without being a thriller: there are no murders, no killed people, no police, no investigators.
The story begins on the day Virgil turns 63, when he receives a mysterious phone call from a young woman desperately asking him to handle the valuation and disposal of the furniture, paintings, heirlooms and priceless works of art of her family. However, the mysterious woman fails to appear on their first appointment at her ancient villa. Subsequent appointments would not materialise leaving Virgil frustrated and irritated. More than once Virgil is tempted to withdraw from what appears to be nothing but a bothersome mess, but on each occasion, the mysterious young woman, locked in her own obsessional world, convinces him to continue. Curiosity leads Virgil to probe into the young woman’s life, particularly her fear of the world, making him lost in her own world. He unconsciously becomes infatuated with the young woman and finds ways to win her heart with the help of his young friend, Robert, a skilful restorer of mechanical devices. Enveloped by his passion and curiosity, the antiques dealer’s life begins to take an unexpected turn which will transform his grey existence forever.
The film has a slightly dark undertone, consistent with the storyline of the mysterious and eccentric personalities of the characters. The personality of the main protagonist is introduced to the audience through his various daily affair and work. The film successfully highlights the key traits of the protagonist early in the film. It clearly establishes three key distinct traits of Virgil – lonesome, extremely wealthy and knowledgeable. This gives him an aura of invulnerability, as if unreachable by threats and harm. His ability to control the proceedings of an auction further validates the tremendous power he wields with his hands.
Introduction to the key male and female characters were great as the audience are able to fully understand the characters through their actions and words. However, as the plot continues to unfold, it may seem a bit of a cliché. Nevertheless, Geoffrey Rush still managed to give a great performance portraying Virgil Oldman, shadowing the performance of other cast members. From his depiction of a solitary, wealthy man, to being a careless man blindly in love, his natural and realistic expressions allows the audience to fully immerse themselves into his acting.
The film successfully gives us a hint of the world of auctions through the life of an art lover and auctioneer. The love story we see here is also not of the standard fare (boy meets girl). This love story is about a 63 year old man falling for a 29 year old woman. Love has no limits and in this case, age is definitely not a factor. However, it could do without some really intimate scenes with a wrinkled man enjoying his passionate moments with the love of his life. In this case, it is best to keep the action behind closed doors.
Overall, the film is enjoyable to watch, with expected surprises, without being overly dull. It may not keep you glued to your seats, but the mildly complex storyline will keep you interested throughout.
Rating : 6.5/10
– Victor Lim