By Sierra Sun
Edoardo De Angelis’ fifth film, The Vice of Hope is an unsettling sci-fi drama that follows Maria (Pina Turco) in a desolate world where she is forced to charter pregnant women across the river in Caserta for child traffickers. The Vice of Hope had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival ’18 and is considered a huge success in Italian contemporary cinema.
Maria’s job starts off as a wrangler for surrogate mothers who are forced to surrender their children to paying families. When one mother goes missing to avoid losing her child, Maria is given the chance to make the right decision -- but it costs her reputation and nearly her life. Bearing a child of her own, Maria flees to the other side of the riverbank where she is welcomed by a vibrant African community.
After learning that she might very likely die upon childbirth, her world changes and she seeks freedom from the mess she helped create. Edoardo beautifully makes this world where the audience is compelled to watch until the very end and breathlessly keeps us guessing.
Taking Nurture Out of Context
Along the notoriously lawless river banks of Volturno, women are both in positions of power and in submission. While the lucrative child trafficking scheme is run by a feared Aunt Mari (Marina Confalone), there is little room for the surrogate mothers to escape their unfortunate situations. De Angelis comments that the story featured women in both positions to demonstrate the various dynamics that exist in a tribe of women (he was brought up by three women himself). By taking away the classically assigned role to men, the film makes a contrasting comment on the expectation of gender roles and puts them into a new perspective.
Volturno : The Red Light
Cinematically represented as the red-light district, the glowing red neon Volturno sign contrasts with the dark eeriness of the night sky, kindly inviting strangers to come. This imagery is heavily emphasized throughout the film, reminding the audience that the “currency” of sex and children is what keeps the community alive.
Two Significant Men
As the story of the lawless world unfolds, we notice that there are only two significant men. The doctor and the man who was shunned from the community long ago. While the doctor is a smart man, he is heavily influenced by Aunt Mari and knows that his place is to monitor the health of the surrogate mothers. Nothing more, nothing less. Although his appearance is brief, De Angelis minimized the appearance of men to fortify the presence of the women culture.
Contrastingly, the other man of significance plays an important part towards the end of the story as the audience learns that he was shunned from the community on the accusation of raping Maria when she was a little girl. But they both know it isn’t true. De Angeles crafted this character that brought happiness and whimsical energy to the dullness of Maria’s life -- even for a short time. Maria eventually depends on him to take care of her child.
For more insight on The Vice of Hope:
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Why You Should See It
If you’re a fan of contemporary world cinema, you won’t want to miss The Vice of Hope. While playing with themes of gender roles, the strength of community, and the consequence of a lawless environment, Edoardo De Angelis cinematically brings to life the powerfully unconventional story of how hope can be a dangerous thing. He also brings to light the present social situation in Caserta along the river.
*Editor’s Note: The Vice of Hope was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18
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