Release date – N/A, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 34 minutes, Director – Beniamino Barrese
Once iconic model Benedetta Barzini has the intention of disappearing from the view of the world, however her son, Beniamino Barrese, decides to make one last film of her, despite her protests
Benedetta Barzini has spent the majority of her life in-front of a camera. As a once iconic model she once appeared on the front covers of some of the world’s most famous and influential fashion magazines. However, she now has the intention of disappearing, vanishing from the view of the world to an isolated island of her own. On hearing this her son, director Beniamino Barrese, decides to document his mother in case she disappears, despite her constant protests. It’s evident that Barzini still very much loves what she does and takes her modelling work very seriously, however for someone who is famous for being seen through a lens she tells her son “the lens isn’t you. The lens is the enemy”. She feels tired and simply wants to retire and be left alone.
It’s evident from much of the film that Barazini is a deeply intelligent and thoughtful figure. Her life experiences – some of which are recreated by her son, who hires a number of actresses to take on the persona of his mother in her youth, recapturing old footage or pictures of her – and wisdom shines throughout the film and makes for an utterly compelling subject. And yet amongst all her disheartening upset and anger over the film that’s being made about her she still manages to inject a fair deal of humour into the piece. Her objection against the creation of the documentary varies, at one moment her taking against it can be rather funny, whereas at others it can be genuinely saddening. For both her and her son, who doesn’t want to say goodbye to his mother. The contrasting views of mother and son create for a rather touching and thoughtful final product that never once feels heavy-handed or forceful.
This is a deeply personal piece for Barrese, capturing his relationship with the woman who brought him up, attempting to keep a time capsule of his memories of her. One which connects with the viewer on an emotional level, allowing for them to see the personal lives of the two, their bond and therefore bringing them in for an emotional journey over the course of 94 minutes. 94 minutes which goes by rather quickly as the outside world is forgotten, the only thing that matters is the woman at the centre of the film. By the end the audience is simply consumed by emotion, desperately wanting to know what happens and whether the titular mother decides to go through with her disappearance or not. While she seems adamant that it’s what she’ll do – saying “I don’t give a damn what island, I just want to be able to go away” – the more she’s shown to spend time on the catwalk – moments that are genuinely lump-in-throat tense and emotional – and with her friends you begin to think that she might not actually ever leave, or that she might somehow be trapped in the life she lives.
“It was the first time that somebody wanted me, specifically me. And it felt good” she says about when she was first picked up as a model. Her opinions have changed as she’s gotten older and she’s certainly become far more insightful and interesting. For such a simple basis for a documentary it’s one of the most compelling, investing and emotional docs of the last few years. While the central focus brings in enough emotion and humour to power the film through what truly makes it is the connection and relationship between the mother and her son who documents her. It might be one very personal story for the son/ director, but it connects deeply with the audience and compels them in emotion for almost the entire, quick-flowing run-time.
Engaging, interesting and deeply compelling The Disappearance Of My Mother is a passionate, personal yet welcoming documentary. Flowing with emotion, humour and a wonderfully engaging subject it just clicks and works right from the start.