Ali In Gabbia
Sep 7, 2022
Gabriele De Cenzo, Jessica Truda
Ali in Gabbia (Caged Wings) is a satisfactory, though ironically restricted short film from director Valentina Galdi that skirts close to greatness but is frustratingly prevented from standing out due to a runtime that does not allow its characters to properly develop.
A paranoid and possessive young man (Gabriele De Cenzo) with only his pet birds to comfort him reflects on his relationship with his girlfriend (Jessica Truda). He replays one of the pair’s arguments in his head – one caused largely by his inability to keep his anger and bipolar behaviour under control. The argument threatens to spiral – as the reason for his isolation in the present becomes evident.
The main issue with Ali in Gabbia is that it feels just a little undercooked dramatically. Viewers are given little context behind the couple’s relationship – other than that Gabriele De Cenzo’s protagonist has created a toxic, tumultuous, and dangerous environment in which Truda’s partner is trapped. His mood swings like a trigger – going from angry, to caring, to furious within the space of minutes. Whilst psychotic swings are far from unimaginable, some extra time developing the character – particularly in his ‘loving’ phase – would give some context as to how someone could get sucked into his world to begin with. It is somewhat cheapening to both characters to rush through the film’s crucial scene as quickly as it does.
The film laments on freedom, and the dread that comes when its removal is imminent. The protagonist initially appears sympathetic to his birds and their lives stuck in a cage – to an extent that viewers will find him endearing. But it soon becomes apparent why he is reflecting on this life and what it may mean as a state of existence. It is an effective way to demonstrate his vanity and narcissism to the audience and challenge assumptions about supposedly caring people. The film’s irony is that the man cannot see that he is the cage for his girlfriend, and is preventing her from living a free life with controlling and threatening behaviour.
Gabriele De Cenzo performs well in a challenging lead role. His gentleness and sympathetic behaviour towards the birds makes his character endearing, and this is shockingly contrasted in his ability to portray terrifying anger when his character’s real nature emerges. Jessica Truda meanwhile plays the exasperated girlfriend well, and her pushback to De Cenzo’s character leads to a believable conflict. It is just a shame as mentioned earlier that the plot’s breakneck speed means the differing sides to the characters – particularly De Cenzo’s – develop far too quickly and inauthentically, making the performances feel unnecessarily forced at times.
It's a shame that Ali in Gabbia rushes through its plot as quickly as it does. Time is always of the essence in a short film – but here the pacing of the film’s key scene is off and this unfortunately impacts the overall feature. There’s a lot of good ideas in this Italian-language offering, but not enough time spent developing them.