Directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring Francesca Dotto, Antonio Poli, Roberto Frontali, & Anna Malawasi
Film Review by Chris Olson
With the release of The Beguiled also this month, audiences will be forgiven for overlooking filmmaker Sofia Coppola's other film out in July 2017. Based on the classic Verdi opera, Coppola directs a live production of the Italian tragedy La Traviata, in a way which is intensely dramatic and poignant.
The story is of a courtesan named Violetta (Francesca Dotto), whose entrance back into society follows a particularly nasty case of tuberculosis. Her illness and woes are almost forgotten, though, after a party at her house leads to her introduction to Alfredo (Antonio Poli). The latter apparently is more than enamoured with Violetta, and did indeed visit her countless times during her suffering, unbeknownst to our protagonist. However, their budding romance faces numerous trials, as relatives and society do their best to get in the way, and the spectre of ill-health looms.
Thematically there is a lot to chew on with La Traviata, and Sofia Coppola's revival manages to visually highlight many of these themes spectacularly. The use of a gigantic staircase with Violetta at the bottom is painfully representative of her station in life, not to mention her sense of self worth. Another excellent sequence where Alfredo attempts to woo her is sumptuous in its emotional impact. The two performers coalesce on stage, creating a visual and audial harmony that is simply arresting.
As with any great opera, the orchestra is paramount to creating the foundation for the story to unfold on. The musicians of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma achieve an outstanding score that delicately balances the intimacy of the love story, with the bold and vibrant social structures which form the unspoken landscape. Moments of tenderness between the two central characters get effectively juxtaposed with larger group scenes that fill the stage with spectacle. As the live audience cheer, the viewer will be unable to prevent themselves from feeling emboldened, or even engaging in a mini air punch, such is the impact of Coppola's achievement.
Films like this rarely find a large audience. Not only are operas difficult to market, live events also pose their own set of particular hurdles. The filmmaking relies heavily on the same camera angles (an obvious result of the restrictions found in filming inside a theatre), and Italian vocals will be off-putting to anyone unfamiliar with the form. That being said, in the wake of critically successful movies like La La Land and The Artist, there exists a definite hunger for films that resemble "classic cinema", and this has a spectacle about it that is hugely appealing. Not to mention the costumes from Valentino Garavani, which are stunning. If you are looking for your entryway into live operas and the work of Verdi, Coppola proves herself a masterful conductor.
Watch the official movie trailer for La Traviata below...