Named for the famous seventeenth-century Roman church Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, which was designed by the legendary architect (and Bernini rival) Francesco Borromini, LA SAPIENZA echoes Rossellini’s Viaggio in Italia in its tale of Alexandre Schmid (Fabrizio Rongione), a brilliant architect who, plagued by doubts and loss of inspiration, embarks on a quest of artistic and spiritual renewal guided by his study of Borromini. His wife Aliénor (Christelle Prot), similarly troubled by the crassness of contemporary society – as well as the couple’s listless marriage – decides to accompany him. In Stresa, a chance encounter with adolescent siblings Goffredo (who is about to begin his own architectural studies) and his fragile sister Lavinia upends the couple’s plans. As Borromini’s spirit and the vertiginous splendour of his structures spin a mysterious web among them, within the course of a few days the foursome experiences a series of life-altering revelations.
“Green’s richly textured, painterly images fuse with the story to evoke the essence of humane urbanity and the relationships that it fosters, whether educational, familial, or erotic.” (Richard Brody, New Yorker)
“An exquisite rumination on life, love and art that tickles the heart and mind in equal measure.” (Scott Foundas, Variety)
About his film, LA SAPIENZA writer-director Eugène Green has said:
“This film has two sources of inspiration. On the one hand the desire to illustrate through film the works and life of the Baroque architect Francesco Borromini. On the other the interest for contemporary architecture and urban planning. The first inspiration would suggest a biography, while both would be very suited to a documentary style narrative. I don’t however believe that one may reconstruct a life through film, nor any other element of a distant past and, despite having all due respect for the documentary as a form of expression, I have always had the instinctive belief – that tends to be sidelined in today’s Europe – that the greater truth can be found in fiction. Thus it is through an action that is a product of my imagination, that I have attempted to approach these two themes. This story involving two couples, a man and a woman, a brother and sister, sheds light on human relations, which are further investigated by introducing a separation, a concept developed out of a long-standing western tradition whereby knowledge is acquired through emptiness, and presence is established through absence. One way or another, the characters of this screenplay face the challenge of letting the past feed the present in a harmonious fashion, and each of them achieves a new understanding of the nature of love. At the heart of the story we also encounter the problem of how tradition may be passed on, one of man’s eternal preoccupations, an issue that is of great moment for contemporary European society.