The Hand of God or in the original È State of Dio is an Italian drama written and directed by the famous filmmaker and writer Paolo Sorentino, author of films The Divo, The Great Beauty, Youth and others. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize, released on Netflix streaming platforms on December 15, 2021 (United States) and was chosen to represent Italy at the 94th Academy Awards. In this film, Sorentino returns to his hometown to tell his most personal story about destiny, family, sports, film and loss.
The Hand of God movie review, plot
The shop is located in the eighties of the last century and follows the young Fabiette (Filippo Scotti) who lives with his parents, brother and sister in Naples. He has no friends or girlfriend, sympathizes with his mentally unstable aunt and has two wishes – to study philosophy and for the famous Diego Maradona to sign for the Napoli football club. His brother takes him to acting auditions when Fabieto slowly begins to reveal his love for film. However, the tragedy that will hit the family will make Fabieto grow up overnight.
In addition to Fabiet, the film contains a lot of other characters, and most of the time he follows his aunt Patricia, who will later be his muse (I have to admit that I’m not sure what inspiration she provides because, in general, everything related to her is through confused vague memories). The portrayal of the occasionally naked woman borders on treating her as a sexual object, but shows the growing importance of sexuality in the sensibility of young men, and thus the fascination with eroticism that undoubtedly creeps into Sorrentino’s films, which previously represented a physically similar type of woman.
Fabieto spends time with his parents, banker Saveria and a housewife who likes to make jokes with Maria. The two of them have bought a new house and are preparing a place where they will spend their retirement days in peace. Fabiette’s extended family is a group of gossiping eccentrics whose presence and influence are relatively diminished when their comic potential is depleted, and there is a baroness neighbor and a strange neighbor who looks like Super Maria – these people come and go, have personal small or big dramas and everyone is in its own way vivid and grotesque.
The title of the film refers to Maradona’s famous controversial goal scored by hand at the 1986 World Cup, when Argentina beat England. After the question of the journalists, the football player answered that the goal was scored by God’s hand and that answer, as well as the goal, marked his rich career. Like most Napoli fans, the arrival of this football player in Naples refreshes Fabijet’s life, until he is destroyed by losses without warning. Then the story narrows down to Fabiette himself, who wanders without direction and goal, avoids relatives, finds an unexpected friend and almost out of whim decides that he wants to make films.
First of all, The Hand of God is a coming-of-age drama about a teenager trying to understand his life, what he wants, what he needs, what he wants to do. It doesn’t take much to realize that this is a very personal story for Sorentino whose protagonist lives in the same place and at the same time as the author was his age. Like life, this film is full of melancholy, laughter, vulgarity, so for some it may represent “only” a bunch of things that happen unrelated. In my opinion, he lacks a bit of mystery and glamor of Sorentino’s best films.
The author has several times directly emphasized how the great Federico Fellini directly influenced his work, and thus this film. The opening shot gives us an aerial view of the sea and the city of Naples teeming with the noise of hectic life before the helicopter retreats back to the water – in these shots there is undeniable mystique and beauty and there are numerous scenes in the film that aesthetically match them. Sorentino has a reputation as a master of detailed presentation of visual beauty, which he confirms this time as well.
Sorentino had several fundamental biographical and philosophical ideas in mind in his screenplay, so it can be said that the film is not a study of sadness, although the focus and tone that contained a light comic touch abruptly leave the second half of the film. Fabiette’s final conversation with the rebellious real-life film director comes as a narrative anticlimax because it represents the beginning of a story that has yet to be told. All in all, Sorentino convincingly presented to us what helped him form his film personality and lifelong affection for the rich culture of his country.
The Hand of God is a personal project of Paolo Sorrentino full of unexpected joy, but also equally unexpected tragedy – this is not his best film, but it is a beautifully shot and insightfully presented story about growing up, family, loss and individuality as a driving force. Final rating: 8/10
The Hand of God cast and characters
- Filippo Scotti as Fabietto Schisa
- Toni Servillo as Saverio Schisa
- Teresa Saponangelo as Maria Schisa
- Luisa Ranieri as Patrizia
- Massimiliano Gallo as Franco
- Renato Carpentieri as Alfredo
- Marlon Joubert as Marchino Schisa
- Betti Pedrazzi as Baronessa Focale
- Biagio Manna as Armando
- Ciro Capano as Capuano
- Enzo De Caro as San Gennaro
- Sofya Gershevich as Yulia
- Roberto Oliveri as Maurizio
- Lino Musella as Marriettiello
- Cristiana Dell’Anna as Armando sister
- Monica Nappo as Silvana
- Carmen Pommella as Annarella
- Adriano Saleri as Fellini’s assistant