Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Capo di Famiglia, which translates roughly to ‘Head of the Family’, is a Dutch drama written by Dirk Gunther Mohr and directed by Annemarie Libbers. The short film revolves around an Italian family that the audience are introduced to on the day of the youngest son’s wedding. It opens with the soon-to-be-wed couple approaching the altar as violin music plays gently beneath. As they say their vows to one another, the entire scene plays out in one long take and thus, the bar is set. From the very beginning, the film is beautiful both visually and aurally and it quickly becomes easy to forget that it was made on a relatively miniscule budget.
Following the ceremony, the family begin their celebrations before Jimmy, the oldest son, is called into his father’s office and told that Vincent, the aforementioned youngest, will be taking over the role of head of family, much to Jimmy’s dismay. To elaborate any further would serve only to spoil some of the twists and turns of the plot, which finds a strange rhythm all of its own. It takes the form of a sort of slice of life piece, a slow-paced exploration of family relations and that family’s darker, unspoken underbelly. Yet, despite this slower pace, there is a central and urgent mystery in the narrative and a tension between the two brothers, Vincent and Jimmy (played here by writer Dirk Gunther Mohr and Matthijs ten Kate respectively) in every scene they appear together. Where this could have potentially resulted in a film that felt somewhat disjointed in pacing and tone, instead it allows the viewer a deeper understanding of almost every character while also subconsciously demanding an investment into the plot.
With regards to the characters, every single one of them is performed with a clear passion and conviction. There is not a single dud throughout the whole cast, though there are some standouts. In particular, Matthijs ten Kate uses the subtleties of a stoic look or a fierceness in his eyes to perfectly portray Jimmy, the jealous older brother with a caged anger. There is also Dirk van der Pol, who plays the part of the initial patriarch, who has some real heavy-lifting to do when it comes to some of the bigger plot beats and pulls it off with aplomb.
While it is easy to praise almost every aspect of Capo di Famiglia, it deserves noting once again just how gorgeous it so often is. From that opening long take to a wonderful sweeping shot as the two take to their first dance, the directing here is impeccable. As previously mentioned, it is this confident direction, matched with the romantic violin score that plays throughout, as well as the convincing performances that make it so easy to forget that this is a short film with a low budget. Furthermore, beneath this great presentation is a narrative that not only grips the audience with a central mystery but that is also told in a non-linear fashion, affording the viewer a further insight into the familial events that led up to the present. Capo di Famiglia is an accomplished, confident short film that will lure you in with its impressive visuals and keep you hooked with its intriguing and well told narrative that, thanks to a satisfyingly open ending, will undoubtedly leave you wanting more.