THE ITALIAN (Andrei Kravchuk, 2005)

The title of Italianetz refers to six-year-old Ivan Solntsev, who lives in a rural Russian orphanage. Vanya is scheduled to relocate to Italy in two months’ time. His black market adoption has been arranged by the orphanage’s co-owners, a drunk and a cold-blooded bottom-liner. The man running Vanya’s previous group home laments, “They’re even selling children now.” Written by Andrei Romanov, Andrei Kravchuk’s film takes aim at Russian capitalism, which contests affectionate human nature. It’s a sober, nearly repressed film that is especially good at detailing the children’s chaotic, unhappy lives at the threadbare orphanage.
     The friend with whom Vanya was transferred from one orphanage to the other has been adopted before him, to who knows what situation. Realizing that Mukhin is all she has in the world, Mukhin’s mother thus arrives too late to reclaim the child she abandoned. Tossed out by the co-owners, she talks to Vanya about her son before Anna-Karenining herself. The children overhear that pieces of her had to be scraped off the bottom of the train.
     Vanya is determined to find out whether he was lost or abandoned and, if the latter, whether his own mother has changed her mind. He learns to read in order to cull information from his file. (An expansive touch: thereafter, he reads books for enjoyment.) He flees the orphanage to search out his mother, with the co-owners in hot pursuit.
     Vanya finds his mother. She remains offscreen as his face slowly becomes a contented smile. We hear Vanya’s real or imagined letter back to his friends at the orphanage, inviting them to visit. This closing ambiguity freezes the moment before his mother’s likely rejection and his becoming lost to the streets. We take in the impoverished, dilapidated environment in which Vanya’s mother lives.

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